SO » Topics » ACCOUNTING POLICIES

This excerpt taken from the SO 10-K filed Feb 27, 2007.
ACCOUNTING POLICIES
 
Application of Critical Accounting Policies and Estimates
 
The Company prepares its financial statements in accordance with accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. Significant accounting policies are described in Note 1 to the financial statements. In the application of these policies, certain estimates are made that may have a material impact on the Company’s results of operations and related disclosures. Different assumptions and measurements could produce estimates that are significantly different from those recorded in the financial statements. Senior management has reviewed and discussed critical accounting policies and estimates described below with the Audit Committee of Southern Company’s Board of Directors.
 
Electric Utility Regulation
 
The Company is subject to retail regulation by the Florida PSC and wholesale regulation by the FERC. These regulatory agencies set the rates the Company is permitted to charge customers based on allowable costs. As a result, the Company applies FASB Statement No. 71, “Accounting for the Effects of Certain Types of Regulation” (SFAS No. 71), which requires the financial statements to reflect the effects of rate regulation. Through the ratemaking process, the regulators may require the inclusion of costs or revenues in periods different than when they would be recognized by a non-regulated company. This treatment may result in the deferral of expenses and the recording of related regulatory assets based on anticipated future recovery through rates or the deferral of gains or creation of liabilities and the recording of related regulatory liabilities. The application of SFAS No. 71 has a further effect on the Company’s financial statements as a result of the estimates of allowable costs used in the ratemaking process. These estimates may differ from those actually incurred by the Company; therefore, the accounting estimates inherent in specific costs such as depreciation and pension and postretirement benefits have less of a direct impact on the Company’s results of operations than they would on a non-regulated company.
 
As reflected in Note 1 to the financial statements, significant regulatory assets and liabilities have been recorded. Management reviews the ultimate recoverability of these regulatory assets and liabilities based on applicable regulatory guidelines and accounting principles generally accepted in the United States. However, adverse legislative, judicial, or regulatory actions could materially impact the amounts of such regulatory assets and liabilities and could adversely impact the Company’s financial statements.
 
Contingent Obligations
 
The Company is subject to a number of federal and state laws and regulations, as well as other factors and conditions that potentially subject it to environmental, litigation, income tax, and other risks. See FUTURE EARNINGS POTENTIAL herein and Note 3 to the financial statements for more information regarding certain of these contingencies. The Company periodically evaluates its exposure to such risks and records reserves for those matters where a loss is considered probable and reasonably estimable in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles. The adequacy of reserves can be significantly affected by external events or conditions that can be unpredictable; thus, the ultimate outcome of such matters could materially affect the Company’s financial statements. These events or conditions include the following:
 
•   Changes in existing state or federal regulation by governmental authorities having jurisdiction over air quality, water quality, control of toxic substances, hazardous and solid wastes, and other environmental matters.
 
•   Changes in existing income tax regulations or changes in Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or state revenue department interpretations of existing regulations.
 
•   Identification of additional sites that require environmental remediation or the filing of other


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Table of Contents

 
MANAGEMENT’S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND
RESULTS OF OPERATIONS (continued)
Gulf Power Company 2006 Annual Report

complaints in which the Company may be asserted to be a potentially responsible party.
 
•   Identification and evaluation of other potential lawsuits or complaints in which the Company may be named as a defendant.
 
•   Resolution or progression of existing matters through the legislative process, the court systems, the IRS, or the EPA.
 
Unbilled Revenues
 
Revenues related to the sale of electricity are recorded when electricity is delivered to customers. However, the determination of KWH sales to individual customers is based on the reading of their meters, which is performed on a systematic basis throughout the month. At the end of each month, amounts of electricity delivered to customers, but not yet metered and billed, are estimated. Components of the unbilled revenue estimates include total KWH territorial supply, total KWH billed, estimated total electricity lost in delivery, and customer usage. These components can fluctuate as a result of a number of factors including weather, generation patterns, power delivery volume and other operational constraints. These factors can be unpredictable and can vary from historical trends. As a result, the overall estimate of unbilled revenues could be significantly affected, which could have a material impact on the Company’s results of operations.
 
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