Edison International

Q1 2023 Earnings Conference Call


spk02: Good afternoon and welcome to the Edison International First Quarter 2023 Financial Teleconference. My name is Ted and I will be your operator today. When we get to the question and answer session, if you have a question, press star 1 on your phone. Today's call is being recorded. I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Sam Ramaraj, Vice President of Investor Relations. Mr. Ramaraj, you may begin your conference.
spk04: Thank you, Ted, and welcome everyone. Our speakers today are President and Chief Executive Officer Pedro Pizarro, and Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Maria Rigotti. Also on the call are other members of the management team. Materials supporting today's call are available at www.edisoninvestor.com. These include a Form 10-Q, prepared remarks from Pedro and Maria, and the teleconference presentation. Tomorrow, we will distribute a regular business update presentation. During this call, will make forward-looking statements about the outlook for Edison International and its subsidiaries. Actual results could differ materially from current expectations. Important factors that could cause different results are set forth in our SEC filings. Please read these carefully. The presentation includes certain outlook assumptions as well as reconciliation of non-GAAP measures to the nearest GAAP measure. During the question and answer session, please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. I will now turn the call over to Pedro.
spk03: Thanks a lot, Sam, and good afternoon, everybody. Edison International's core EPS for first quarter 2023 was $1.09. We are pleased with our start to the year, and we are confident in affirming our 2023 core EPS guidance of $4.55 to $4.85. We also remain confident in delivering our long-term EPS growth target of 5% to 7% from 2021 through 2025. Maria will discuss her financial performance and outlook. My key message today is that we continue to see a number of positives in the near term and in the long term, and these make us excited for our company's future. SCE's actions to sustain and strengthen the electric grid, mitigate wildfires, and enable decarbonization through electrification are critically needed by California and are increasing our investment opportunity. In the longer term, our Pathway 2045 analysis highlights the continued investment in transmission and distribution needed to evolve the grid. This is being recognized by regulators in California. In 2021, the California ISO released a 20-year plan estimating about $30 billion of transmission investment needed to 2040, consistent with our pathway analysis. Only a few weeks ago, CalISO published its draft 2022 to 2023 transmission plan with its current thinking on system needs over the next 10 years. Their draft plan calls for 46 transmission projects with a total estimated cost of $9.3 billion. Over $2 billion of that represents proposed incumbent projects for SCE, and over $5 billion represents FERC Order 1000 competitive projects within Southern California for which SCE will be able to compete. In the near term, SCE continues its diligent execution of its wildfire mitigation plan and has reduced the probability of losses from catastrophic wildfires by 75 to 80 percent compared to pre-2018 levels, predominantly from grid hardening measures that allow the utility to mitigate risk while keeping electricity flowing to our customers. I want to say thanks again to the many of you who visited us in person at our headquarters and heard directly from several of our leaders about the utilities achievements and ongoing actions. In March, SCE filed its 2023 to 2025 WMP with the Office of Energy Infrastructure Safety. Highlights of the plan are shown on page three. Our number one priority remains the safety of the public, customers, workers, and first responders. In 2023, the utility is building on the work already accomplished while focusing on five key areas. These are continuing to harden the grid, ramping up targeted undergrounding work in severe risk areas, continuing to reduce PSPS impacts, expanding aerial fire suppression funding to year-round, and furthering technological advancements. SCE's flagship grid hardening program, covered conductor, remains its key mitigation measure. More than 2,850 additional miles of covered conductor will be installed between 2023 and 2025. By the end of 2025, SCE expects to have replaced more than 7,200 miles or about three-quarters of overhead distribution power lines in high fire risk areas with covered conductor. SCE also plans to complete about 100 miles of undergrounding by 2025 to address the high risk presented by unique factors in certain areas and plans to underground a total of 600 miles by the end of 2028. Additionally, to quickly suppress fires regardless of how they start and protect the communities SCE serves, the utility continues to partner with the LA County Fire Department, Orange County Fire Authority, and Ventura County Fire Department to expand their firefighting capabilities. As highlighted in the WMP, this support has been expanded to year-round aerial fire suppression from the Quick Reaction Force, made up of the world's largest fire suppression helicopters with unique night firefighting capabilities. The WMP is adaptive, and it's focused on furthering technological advancements to find new ways to mitigate wildfire risk FCE is continuously developing new approaches and collaborating with other utilities, with academia, and with the energy sector to make our communities safer. The WMP highlights technologies such as the Rapid Earth Current Limiter, early fault detection, and using artificial intelligence that will continue to advance our suite of wildfire mitigation measures. Going back to the long-term view, A key driver for SCE's investment in the grid and for enabling customer affordability is transportation electrification. We aren't just talking here about regulatory policies or long-term forecasts. We are seeing customers really start to embrace and adopt EVs today, including operators of medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleets. SCE was an early mover and today has the country's largest suite of transportation electrification programs led by an investor-owned utility, with over $800 million in approved funding for its charge-ready programs, which include a program aimed at the medium and heavy-duty segment. Momentum and customer interest have certainly increased, and we are beginning to see vehicle availability improvements in the heavy-duty segment, with more options available to order. SCE is currently working with nearly 200 sites to potentially support approximately 4,000 medium and heavy-duty vehicles. Customers operating heavy-duty vehicles are requesting higher-powered chargers, resulting in larger load requests that may require additional distribution system upgrades to ensure adequate capacity is available. SCE continues to engage with these customers to understand when and where these vehicles will materialize to ensure the grid is ready. Beyond transportation electrification, building electrification is another critical opportunity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. SCE has proposed a $677 million program to help catalyze the adoption of electric heat pumps, and that is currently being reviewed by the CPUC. I will conclude by noting that even as SCE makes substantial investment in the grid to keep the utility and the state on track for decarbonization and electrification efforts, affordability is always top of mind. SCE's longstanding culture of actively pursuing and maintaining productivity improvement and cost control measures has enabled it to have the lowest system average rate among California investor-owned utilities. Some recent examples. include the pending settlement agreement with Tern and Cal Advocates to move to a customer-funded wildfire self-insurance model, and FCE's Operational Excellence Program, which includes over 600 employee-driven ideas with capital efficiency and O&M benefits. These include work planning, procurement, and technology, as shown on page four. Beyond these, we will constantly pursue new opportunities for digitization, automation, and generative artificial intelligence to drive further improvements in customer interactions, asset data quality, and back office efficiencies. The expected benefits should progressively increase as we accelerate implementation through 2024 and beyond, further benefiting affordability for SCE's customers. With that, Maria will provide her financial report.
spk01: Thanks, Pedro, and good afternoon, everyone. In my comments today, I will discuss first quarter results, our 2023 EPS guidance, our 2023 financing plan, and other financial topics. Starting with the first quarter of 2023, EIX reported core EPS of $1.09. As you can see from the year-over-year quarterly variance analysis shown on page 5, SCE's first quarter earnings increased primarily due to GRC attrition year escalation. This was partially offset by higher net interest expense, driven by higher interest rates associated with funding 2017 and 2018 wildfire claims payments. At EIX, parents, and other, there was a negative variance of 4 cents due to higher holding company interest expense. I would now like to discuss SCE's capital and rate-based forecasts, shown on pages 6 and 7. These are consistent with last quarter's disclosures. SCE will file its 2025 GRC application in mid-May, and we will update our capital and rate-based projections and extend them through 2028 at that time. Over the coming years, SCE will continue to invest in wildfire mitigation and increase its grid work to meet the needs of its customers while also supporting California's leading role in building a carbon-free economy. You can see this increased investment begin in our projections for 2025 capital spending. which is just under $7 billion. As a point of reference, only six years ago, our annual CapEx was less than $4 billion. Let me provide a brief update on the 2017 and 2018 wildfire and mudslide events. As outlined on page 8, in the first quarter, SCE resolved about $148 million in individual plaintiff claims. This continued progress settling claims enables us to move further along in resolving these historical events. Naturally, as we proceed toward full resolution, we continue to gain more and more information. Each quarter, we take our cumulative experience into account as we refine the best estimate. Consequently, SCE adjusted the best estimate upward by $90 million. More importantly, with this progress, the utility remains confident that it will file the TKM cost recovery application in the third quarter of this year. Our message is very clear. SCE will seek full CPUC cost recovery, excluding amounts that were gone under the agreement with the Safety Enforcement Division or already recovered. SCE will show its strong, compelling case that it operated its system prudently and that it is in the public interest to authorize full cost recovery. Turning to guidance, page nine shows our 2023 EPS guidance and the key assumptions for modeling purposes. We are pleased with our start to the year and are confident in affirming our 2023 core EPS guidance of $4.55 to $4.85. Progress related to the parent company's 2023 financing plan is shown on page 10. In March, we issued $500 million of junior subordinated notes, which provided $250 million of equity content. The transaction was in line with our expectations, and we were pleased to see strong investor support for this offering, which was significantly oversubscribed. We expect to generate approximately $100 million of equity through internal programs, consistent with the $300 to $400 million of equity content in our financing plan. To add another highlight on the financing front, just last week, SCE closed on its securitization financing for the final portion of the $1.6 billion in AB 1054 capital expenditures. SCE saw very robust investor engagement for this $775 million offering. This resulted in a cost-effective transaction for SCE's customers and allowed the utility to repay an outstanding term loan, further improving its credit profile. Please turn to page 11. In addition to growing investor support, we are seeing our strengthening business and credit profile reflected in the rating agency's outlooks. In February, Moody's upgraded EIX and SCE's credit ratings by one notch, reflecting the decline in wildfire risk facing SCE. Additionally, last week, Fitch upgraded EIX and SCE's credit ratings by one notch, noting the meaningful decline in major wildfires linked to SCE's equipment post-2018, despite elevated wildfire activity in California in 2020 and 2021, and ongoing efforts to enhance system resilience while mitigating reliance on and frequency of public safety power shutoffs. Page 12 provides an update on the CPUC cost of capital mechanism. If the 12-month average of the Moody's BAA Utility Bond Index exceeds 5.37% at the end of September, SBE will file a Tier 2 advice letter to implement the adjustment to the 2024 ROE. The adjustment would be equal to half the difference between the average and 4.37%. The mechanism also updates the authorized costs of debt and preferred equity. Through April 25th, the measurement period average is around 5.7%. We will continue monitoring the cost of capital mechanism, which could result in significant upside to 2024 earnings should it trigger. Looking ahead, we are reiterating our 5% to 7% EPS growth rate guidance from 2021 through 2025, which translates to 2025 EPS of $5.50 to $5.90. My management team and I are fully committed to delivering on this target. We will provide an update on our EPS growth rate projections through 2028 on our Q2 earnings call. With strong rate-based growth as the underlying driver, Coupled with the significant investment needed in our electric grid, we continue to be optimistic about the company's growth prospects, both near and long-term. That concludes my remarks. Sam?
spk04: Ted, please open the call for questions. As a reminder, we request you to limit yourself to one question and one follow-up, so everyone in line has the opportunity to ask questions.
spk02: The phone line is now open for questions. If you would like to ask a question, press star 1 on your phone. One moment for the first question, please. The first question is from Angie Storzinski with Seaport. Your line is now open.
spk00: Hi, Angie. Thank you. How are you? Okay, so my first question, so just looking at the settlements of the 2017 and 2018 claims, so you didn't settle anything more since basically the fourth quarter update?
spk01: No, Angie, this is Maria. We actually settled about $148 million in additional claims during the quarter. So we have been settling more claims. We report on the amount settled in each quarter. So last quarter, the pace of the demands did slow down some, but we're still very well positioned and we will be filing our first cost recovery application in Q3 for the TKM event.
spk00: Okay, okay, that's fine. And then for the SCC GRC application that you'll file in May, do you plan to assume positive load growth in your filing?
spk03: So we will be filing that in another week and a half or so. I think we reported in the last quarter that we're seeing load growth picking up. and there are assumptions built into the rate case. You'll see those when we file it, but there are assumptions built into the rate case on load growth. Steve Powell, do you want to add anything there?
spk06: I guess as we, you know, not around load growth, you know, you can expect to see in the rate case, you know, focus on all the things we need to do on the grid, both to deal with customer demand right now as well as the load growth we may see from electrification and other things. And so, That'll be a focus on reliability, including looking at infrastructure replacement that has been ramped down over the last number of years while we've dealt with a lot more wildfire mitigation. So you'll see more wildfire mitigation activities in there, both continuation of our Covered Conductor Program as well as a move towards some targeted undergrounding, continued adaptation investments, and of course dealing with what we project to be low growth. That between now and 2035 is going to be about 2% a year on average. So that will drive investments in the grid. And, of course, with all of it, it's making sure we're thinking about it from an affordability perspective, balancing the needed investments in the grid with the customer's needs for affordability.
spk00: Okay. And my last question for Maria. So, you know, given all of the credit upgrades and reduction in wildfire mitigation, wildfire risk, Have you seen, and again, I could probably see it myself, but have you seen a meaningful reduction in your credit spreads? I'm just wondering if everybody else in the industry is actually seeing a growth in their cost of debt. Are you guys actually seeing some reversal of the risk premium that is positioning you better versus peers in the industry?
spk01: Sure. So, Angie, I think, you know, we've, for a long time, we've had the reverse, right, where there's been a big gap between us and where others in the industry are. We share that with the commission as well. We are seeing some improvement. I think there's still room for improvement, and it's one of the things that we're very focused on over time. But we have seen some benefits from some of these recent upgrades.
spk00: Okay. That's great.
spk02: Thank you.
spk01: Thank you, Angie.
spk02: The next question is from Shar Perez with Guggenheim Partners. Your line is now open.
spk05: Hey, guys.
spk02: Hey, Shar.
spk05: Good afternoon, Shar. Good afternoon. Pedro, you mentioned the KISO transmission plan and sort of that associated CapEx opportunities in your prepared remarks. Just to clarify, those have not been assumed in your current 5% to 7% growth guidance, and maybe just tying into the KISO report, AB 538 is proposing to kind of expand KISO into a Western RTO. Does that put further tailwinds for transmission development there?
spk03: Yeah, so on the first part of the question, no, those are not part of our 21 to 25 EPS growth rate. And in fact, the chances are that those projects would be early in the development process by 2025. since they're only now being identified by the CalISO. As you know, one of the challenges, Char, is that today transmission development can take a decade, largely because of the approval and permitting and signing processes. So we're also looking at the efforts of the federal level and state levels to expedite permitting and signing. So that's that on the transmission piece. On your question about Western regional market expansion, You know, we're monitoring the bill. We are actually very supportive of the concept of an expanded CalISO providing a platform to become a Western regional market. Of course, the devil will be in the details. And, you know, we want to make sure that that expansion, you know, if and when it happens, and hopefully it will, but that it's done with all the right sort of safeguards in place to make sure that The right benefits accrue both to California and other states' customers. And you asked whether that could add tailwinds. I think of it as a larger market will provide greater opportunities to minimize the cost of the clean energy transition. It will allow better sharing of resources across the West. And so at its core, I think the main benefit of it would be to provide a platform to support greater affordability for both California customers and customers across the West. And we mentioned in remarks here, we are mindful of affordability. It's something we continue to focus a lot on. So anything like a Western regional market that helps bring down the cost of the transition is a good thing then in terms of creating more room in our rates to either minimize rates or to provide, you know, rate room for all the other projects that are important here. As to whether, you know, a Western Regional Market might mean more transmission projects ultimately for SCE, it's a little harder to tell, and I think the main benefit is that cost reduction for customers. Got it.
spk05: And then lastly, you know, obviously you guys just completed your financing plan, but there is, you know, somewhat of a cash pay convert market forming. Several peers have tapped it. Some don't even need equity. You know, your embedded, you know, interest cost is over 6%, which is obviously materially higher than this market. Any kind of interest there in that, and could that be sort of accretive to the current plan? Thanks.
spk01: Yeah, so sure. It's Maria. So the financing we've done to date has been consistent with what we said on our last call in terms of the total $1.4 billion, and the junior subordinate notes were aimed at the equity content. balance of the equity content we're going to be addressing through our internal program. So that's one piece of it. In terms of the debt financing, so we have to do the balance for the balance of the year, you know, we're going to look at all the different options. We want to be efficient. We want to consider all of the costs, you know, the all-in cost of doing that and take into consideration both the near term but also the longer term potential costs associated with that. But, you know, we're going to keep everything on our radar.
spk05: Perfect. That was it. Thank you guys so much.
spk02: Thanks, Cheryl. The next question is from Ryan Levine with Citi. Your line is open.
spk08: Hi, Ryan. Hi, everybody. To follow up on some of the transmission comments or questions, in terms of the initial four-quarter 1,000 transmission projects, when do you think the company is likely to pursue those from a timeline standpoint?
spk03: Hey, Ryan, you're cutting up a little bit. Would you mind repeating the question? Might be a bad phone line or something.
spk08: In terms of the four-quarter 1,000 transmission lines, From a timeline standpoint, when do you think the company is looking to pursue those opportunities?
spk03: Yeah, so it really starts with what timeline the CalISO follows for, you know, the process of finalizing the transmission plan and then ultimately taking projects through that competitive process. I don't know that we have a specific timetable yet, but Steve, are you aware of anything more specific at this point?
spk06: Yeah, I think, so in the draft plan, there were four projects identified that would be eligible for competition. They still have to finalize and approve the draft plan. And then in terms of the bidding windows, I believe some of the bidding windows start as early as beginning of this summer and into the fall. So the project evaluation bidding is kind of later this year in terms of when bidders would be going in on those projects.
spk08: Okay, and then the follow-up maybe for Maria, if those projects were to be one, How would you look at the financing of the incremental capital, given that it's more long duration?
spk01: Yeah, so at the bids and wins, we'll finance that the way we would finance our normal rate-based investments, Ryan. So we'll do that in the normal course. I think that there will be a lot of opportunity for us to be able to finance all of it.
spk08: All right. Thank you.
spk02: Thanks, Ryan. The next question is from Greg Orle with UBS. Your line is open.
spk07: Hi, Greg. Yeah, hi. Thank you. Maybe just a quick one on the pending heat pumps investment and just wondering what you would expect the duration of that program would be to spend the money, the $677 million.
spk03: Our proposal for that was a five-year program. I think it's either four or five-year, four-year program. Just to remind you, we proposed in there around deployment of a quarter million heat pumps. We also proposed to take about a third of the customers with getting heat pumps and upgrading their homes for broader electrification to make them electrification ready. Around 90% of the program is targeted towards residential customers, and a good portion of that is targeting low-income and disadvantaged communities. It is still going through the PUC process, and so think about four years or so deployment timeline after PUC approval.
spk07: Thank you very much.
spk02: Thanks. The next question is from Julian Dumoulin-Smith with Bank of America. Your line is open.
spk09: Good afternoon, Julian. Hey, thank you guys very much. Appreciate it. Hey, look, I wanted to come back to the commentary about the update forthcoming. When you made the – obviously, mid-May, we've got this rate-based update coming. It seemed like in the prepared remarks you were alluding to a potential extension of the earnings outlook with the second quarter call. Can you affirm that, just provide us some context as to the parameters that you're thinking they're in, like base year, et cetera, but more specifically also how you think about maybe the EPS trajectory relative to the rate base that you'll release here with mid-May?
spk01: Those are all great questions, Julian. Let me take them from a timing perspective first. So when we file the rate case in mid-May, we will provide an update at that point relative to capital spend and rate base, and that'll be through 2028. So that's consistent with the timeline of the general rate case itself. On the Q2 call, we will then add to that our EPS projections through 2028. So your other questions are really excellent, but we'll bring all of that into play on the Q2 call.
spk03: So stay tuned.
spk09: Got it. Okay, understood. And base year will be rolled forward by a couple of years?
spk01: So we'll go into all that detail when we get to the Q2 call.
spk09: Got it. All right. Excellent. Well, we will leave it there. Thank you, guys. Appreciate it.
spk03: Thanks, Julie. Thanks, Julian.
spk02: And that was the last question. I will now turn the call back over to Mr. Sam Ramraj.
spk04: Well, thank you for joining us. This concludes the conference call. Have a good rest of the day and stay safe, everyone. You may now disconnect.
spk02: Thank you for your participation. You may disconnect.

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