Exelon Corp. is one of the nation's largest electrical utilities, with over 5.4 million retail customers and over 33,000 Megawatts in energy capacity (1 MW can power approximately 500 homes; for example, a city the size of Seattle can consume 1,100 MW at any given moment in time.) In the first quarter of 2010 Exelon reported operating revenues of $4.46B and operating income of $1.4B and in 2009 operating revenues and operating income were $17.3B and $4.8B, respectively. Exelon delivers energy to millions of retail customers in Pennsylvania and Illinois and generates energy for wholesale delivery to retail suppliers throughout the nation.
PECO and ComEd comprise Exelon's retail utility segment. PECO delivers electricity and gas to almost 2 million customers in the southeastern portion of Pennsylvania, including the city of Philadelphia. ComEd delivers electricity to 3.7 million customers in northern Illinois. The future success of both subsidiaries depends largely on U.S. Energy Regulations and their respective regulatory environments. ComEd, in particular, faces some uncertainty as Illinois nears the end of a 10 year legislative rate freeze on energy prices. If Illinois moves from government regulated prices to market based pricing, ComEd could see a significant boost to earnings. On the other hand, continuation of rate freeze legislation could pose a serious threat to the company.
Exelon also operates a wide array of nuclear energy, fossil fuel, hydroelectric and renewable energy plants. Exelon's energy portfolio is concentrated in nuclear energy, with nuclear energy generation representing almost two thirds of total energy production. Exelon's nuclear fleet represents 3% of total US energy production. Exelon's nuclear focus will allow it to benefit from a variety of trends including rising worldwide demand for energy, resulting rising fossil fuel prices, global warming concerns and a favorable US legislative environment.
Exelon was formed through the merger of two energy utilities, Unicom and PECO, in 2000. The merger was part of an overall wave of consolidation that occurred in the wake of the deregulation of the utility industry. Exelon manages its broad interests through two business segments: Delivery and Power Generation. Generation processes raw fuel to generate energy in an array of fossil, hydroelectric and nuclear power plants. Exelon delivery focuses on maintaining the power lines and other infrastructure necessary for delivering energy to millions of customers in Illinois and Pennsylvania. Delivery operates through two subsidiaries: Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) which operates in Illinois and PECO which operates in the Philadelphia region of Pennsylvania. Power Generation is also subdivided into three business segments: Power, Nuclear and Powerteam.
Fiscal Year 2010 Summary
In 2010, Exelon earned net income of $2.6 billion, a 5% decrease from the previous year, with total revenues of $18.6 billion, an 8% increase from the previous year. The increase in revenue was primarily due to favorable capacity pricing in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions, favorable weather conditions amounting to an impact of $168 million on revenue, and a decrease of $84 million in legislation costs related to the Illinois Settlement Legislation.
Commonwealth Edison, or ComEd, is responsible for servicing and maintaining the over 78,000 miles of powerlines that provide Chicago and northern Illinois with electric energy. ComEd does not engage in the production of energy. Instead, it purchases energy from third party providers and focuses on servicing and delivering this energy to customers. ComEd currently has a customer base of over 3.7 million and has approximately 6000 employees. In fiscal year 2009, ComEd earned $5.8 billion in revenues, with $843 million in operating income.
PECO engages in the distribution and delivery of electricity and natural gas in the southeastern region of Pennsylvania. Like ComEd, PECO does not engage in the production of energy; it purchases energy from Exelon Power Generation and other third party providers. PECO focuses primarily on servicing and maintaining a web of substations, power lines and gas mains to deliver this electricity to 1.5 million customers and gas to another 460,000 in the Philadelphia region. In fiscal year 2009, PECO reported revenues of $5.3 billion and a net operating income of $697 million.
The Pennsylvania Energy Independence Initiative, which is planned to help cut carbon emissions in the state by advancing conservation and raising fossil fuel taxes could benefit Exelon by pushing nuclear energy, but could hurt the company's fossil fuel power business. Currently, the company is working on lobbying the state legislature to make the Initiative more appealing for it.
On March 31, 2010 Peco requested a rate increase for the cost of delivery for electricity and natural gas. If approved it would mark the first increase since 1989 for electricity and 1987 for natural gas. The delivery charge is roughly one-third of the entire bill for each customer. This change could help Peco maintain margins and help pass on a greater share of the costs of delivery to the customer. Separately, in January 2011, the 14 year contract which fixed the rate at which Peco buys electricity will switch back to market pricing. This cost is passed directly on to customers. 
Generation, Exelon's largest business segment, earned $9.7 billion in revenues in 2009, with $3.3 billion in operating income, making it Exelon's most profitable segment. Generation is divided into Nuclear, Power, and Powerteam.
Of these three segments, nuclear is by far the largest. Exelon's nuclear wing operates 10 nuclear plants with 17 reactors. Exelon's nuclear fleet is the largest in the nation and third largest in the world. In all, the plants represent 20% of US nuclear energy or 3% of total US energy production. Decades after nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island (Three Mile Island - 1 was acquired by PECO in December of 1999) and Chernobyl stigmatized nuclear energy, rising fossil fuel prices are making people reconsider. Higher oil prices increase costs for fossil fuel plants and make nuclear energy more attractive. Increasing awareness of global climate change also makes nuclear energy more appealing, as nuclear plants have negligible greenhouse gas emissions compared to plants that burn fossil fuels (though construction of nuclear plants does cause some emissions). Exelon demonstrated its long term commitment to expanding its nuclear energy program when it tried to merge with PSEG in 2006. The merger would have given Exelon interest in four additional nuclear plants and boosted it to the world's number two in nuclear energy. Although the deal was scrapped due to high regulation hurdles, nuclear energy remains Exelon's crown jewel. The nuclear segment was one of the most successful nuclear power teams in the industry during 2007, with an average capacity factor (that is, percent of capital used) of 94.5% (compared to the industry average of 90%), and energy production growth of 955,000 megawatt hours. During the first quarter of 2008, however, the company started five refueling outages, completing four - over twice as many as occurred in the same period of 2007. Though these outages were necessary, they did reduce the company's production during the period. Exelon was able to complete these outages in an average of 25 days - compared to the industry average of 41 days.
Exelon Power manages Exelon's portfolio of fossil, hydroelectric and alternative energy plants. These plants have the capacity to produce over 8000 Megawatts of energy. This capacity complements Exelon's nuclear production; when demand spikes, some of the excess burden can be shifted onto the fossil plants. Unlike Nuclear, the Power division is exposed to the risks associated with fossil fuels such as global warming and oil prices. In addition to fossil and hydroelectric plants, Exelon Power also operates several solar power facilities and several wind farms as the largest producer of wind power east of the Mississippi.
While the price of coal has been rising for some time, Exelon continues to expand its Power segment, albeit in creative ways. In 3Q07, the company purchased the output of State Line, a 515 MW coal power plant in Indiana, until 2012. Despite the rising cost of coal power production, Exelon expects after-tax income from the plant to be around $130 million in 4Q07, and then expects to lose $35 million per year until the end of the contract, when State Line will pay the company $233 million, creating immediate cash flow. It should be noted that the coal plant was not purchased as a strategic asset, but rather as an assured investment with dependable future income and no long-term financial repercussions.
Power's fossil fuel capital availability rate in 4Q07 was 83%, compared to 95.7% in 4Q06, because two plants went down in 4Q07. The company's hydro-facility availability rose for the same periods from 97.9% to 98.6%, though lower river flow resulted in lower power generation.
PowerTeam is responsible for marketing Exelon Nuclear and Power's products. PowerTeam delivers wholesale energy products to retail suppliers. They also design and package energy products and negotiate contracts with municipalities, utilities and institutional traders. Additionally, PowerTeam actively hedges Exelon Nuclear and Power's portfolio of energy assets. PowerTeam's hedging reduces Exelon's overall exposure to the risks of fluctuating energy prices.
Exelon made an unsolicited acquisition bid to NRG Energy in October 2008, worth $6.2 billion. If Exelon was successful in acquiring NRG it would have created the largest power company in the country (by asset value).
The initial offer of $6.2 billion was rejected by NRG management, so Exelon made an unsolicited bid directly to shareholders. By the end of June only about 12% of NRG's shares had been tendered under the offer, so Exelon moved to what was deemed by the company's chairman, John Rowe, to be "the best and final offer." That offer was roughly $7.5 billion an increase of 17% from its initial offer in 2008. Exelon increased the offer after it identified another $1.5 billion in cost savings through the combination of the two businesses and the added benefits of NRG's purchase of a retail business from Reliant Energy (RRI).
The hostile bid was met resistant from the NRG management board and Delaware’s Public Service Commission and its Department of Natural Resources submitted concerns over the bid to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. On July 21, 2009 Exelon officially terminated its offer to acquire all of the outstanding shares of NRG Energy. Exelon was unwilling to raise its price to what it considered would undermine its own value proposition and in light of a preliminary proxy vote of shareholders against the proposal.
On August 29, 2010, Exelon announced its plans to acquire John Deere Renewables, the wind energy subsidiary of John Deere & Co., at a price of $860 million, with an additional $40 million once construction plans for new projects finalize. With the acquisition, Exelon is epected to gain 735MW of wind energy capacity from a total of 36 wind farms, as well as a further 1,486 MW from projects in development. This move is part of the company's efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and to diversify its generation fleet with renewable energy.
In the first quarter of 2009, oil prices have hovered around $40-$60 a barrel, too low to stimulate interest in nuclear energy. Since then prices have rebounded to hover in the $70-$80 range which makes nuclear energy a little more competitive. However with growing energy demands from emerging markets, the price of oil is expected to stay high.
The key difference between nuclear and fossil plants is the cost structure. Nuclear plants require very large capital investments (to construct the plant) but little expenditure for fuel because it takes relatively little uranium to power a plant. On the other hand, fossil fuel plants require relatively little capital investment but have high fuel costs because they require large amounts of coal, oil or gas. In the past, low fossil fuel prices gave given fossil fuel plants a cost advantage over nuclear plants. The cost advantage, compounded by the stigmas of nuclear energy (the Not In My Back Yard (NIMBY) phenomenon) has prevented new nuclear construction for almost 30 years. Record fossil fuel prices after 2007 reversed this trend. Nuclear utilities such as Exelon and Entergy began filing for permits for construction of new nuclear plants, with some heralding the arrival of a "nuclear renaissance." While nuclear power still carries a stigma, some of that could be crumbling, as proponents of greener energy sometimes point to nuclear power as one way to reduce carbon emissions, and there is a favorable legislative environment, and a president, Obama, right now that wishes to push forward in nuclear energy. 
Over the past few years, global warming has moved from the fringes to become one of the single greatest challenges facing the world today. A growing body of scientific evidence ties carbon dioxide emissions to rising temperatures. As a result of growing popular awareness of the risks of global warming, many large corporations have stepped up their efforts to project greener images. Additionally, many expect the U.S. government to enact more stringent legislation limiting carbon emissions. Environmental awareness is another key trend driving the renaissance of nuclear energy. Compared to their fossil fuel peers, nuclear energy plants have negligible emissions. Again, although Exelon also operates fossil fuel plants, the majority of its energy comes from nuclear plants. Additionally, Exelon operates many hydroelectric, alternative and renewable energy plants. In all, Exelon stands to benefit from a shift to nuclear energy due to global warming concerns, a fact that has not been lost on the company. The company recently began to push for higher efficiency standards and other environmentally friendly state policies in the areas it operates, probably hoping that a paradigm shift will facilitate a shift towards renewable energy, ultimately benefiting the company.
In its second quarter 2008 conference call, Exelon detailed a program, Exelon 2020: A Low-Carbon Road Map, with a goal of offsetting 15 million metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions by 2020. The company plans on spending 10 billion over the next 12 years, 80-85% of which will go to upgrading nuclear plants, implementing renewable energy generation, and building efficient natural gas plants. The rest will go to carbon offsets and customer education programs.
Nuclear power plants are run to precise, extremely high standards in order to ensure that the power-generating processes do not go awry. The design of boiling water and pressurized water reactors employed in the United States and most of the world make it impossible for a Chernobyl type disaster to occur. The fact that Exelon can generate a kilowatt-hour of energy for only 1.8 cents versus an average of 4 cents for wind energy could have average consumers leaning toward nuclear as an easy climate change solution. Ultimately, the question of the success of nuclear energy will come down to what people fear more: the threat of climate change with its unknown effects or the unfounded and uninformed media driven fear that a Chernobyl accident could occur in the United States.
On August 16, 2010, two Exelon nuclear reactors at Braidwood Generating Station, 60 miles south of Chicago, were shut down for a week due to electrical bus issues. The shut down emitted loud noise, as well as steam that contained levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission is testing condensate and water in the system for levels, and state they are likely to fall below regulatory limits. Should the levels not fall below limits, Exelon will be responsible for cleanup and monitoring, as it did with the 2006 Braidwood contamination.
Exelon announced in August its plans for a $4.6 billion expenditure program in IIIinois, effectively creating 4,200 new jobs over the next five years. It plans to take responsibility by decommissioning the Zion nuclear power station, a task that will take ten years, and upgrading equipment at its six Illinois power plants.
Weather can have a material impact on Exelon's business. Warmer than expected winters can lead to lower demand for heating energy, whereas a cooler than expected summer can lead to lower energy demand for cooling. The 4th quarter of 2006 for instance was cooler than the 4th quarter of 2005 resulting in a 1% decrease in Kilowatt deliveries when compared to 2005. Storms can also cost the company millions of dollars, as in June 2008 when a storm knocked out power for 152,000 PECO customers, forcing the company to put crews to work around the clock to restore power.
The U.S. government plays a critical role in the financial performance of the highly regulated energy sector. Each of Exelon's utility businesses face a variety of challenges and potential benefits that may arise from changes in legislation and regulatory schemes:
ComEd in particular is at a crucial juncture in terms of U.S. Energy Regulations . In 1997, the state of Illinois enacted legislation that split the generation and delivery segments of energy companies, lowered rates by 20% and, most importantly, froze rates at that level for 10 years. Unless new legislation is enacted, 2007 will see the transition from artificial, regulated pricing to market rate pricing. Unless rate freeze legislation is reenacted, ComEd predicts an average 22% increase in rates in Illinois. In this way, the transition to market based rates should provide a significant boost to earnings in the coming years. On the other hand, the CEO of ComEd has been quoted saying that another rate freeze may push ComEd toward insolvency. This outcome is unlikely, however, as 75% of the company's 1Q08 rate hike requests were granted, indicating a close relationship between the company and its regulators.
In all, the legislative environment is favorable for Exelon Generation. Increasing concern over global warming makes US carbon emission legislation likely in the short to midterm. Because Exelon's portfolio is concentrated in nuclear energy any legislation based on carbon trading markets will allow Exelon to offset emissions at its carbon based plants with carbon credits from its renewable and nuclear plants. Additionally, the 2005 federal energy bill provided many government incentives for the continued expansion of the US nuclear fleet. Exelon Generation should benefit from this favorable environment moving forward.
The Waxman-Markey bill is currently in the House awaiting a vote, and according to rough calculations, the passage of the bill as it stands could lead to Exelon netting an additional 1 billion dollars in revenue. The cap-and-trade bill would have a huge positive effect on Exelon since Exelon would be able to use its 132 megawatts of nuclear power generation to sell carbon credits to traditional coal-fired plants, and while the bill estimates the cost of a permit to emit a ton of CO2 to be $7.50, Exelon stands to gain a very large amount of revenue.
|Revenue (USD Billions)||14.4||13.2||13.1||18.9|
|Generation Capacity (Megawatts)||36,600||29,800||22,100||31,300|
|Nuclear Power Generation Capacity (Megawatts)||2,190||7,000||5,120||17,000|
|Gross Profit (USD Billion)||4.85||5||4.25||7.02|
Although wide variation in their operations makes direct comparison difficult, it is clear that Exelon has been a top performer among utility companies. Exelon is considerably larger than its closest competitors. Its scale provides more leverage when negotiating energy contracts with retail energy suppliers. Another key attraction of Exelon is the high concentration of its energy portfolio in Nuclear Energy. In all, nuclear energy represents almost two thirds of Exelon's energy generation. This high concentration in nuclear energy is a key advantage. While nuclear plants require large initial investments, low fuel costs allow for lower marginal costs. These lower marginal costs have helped Exelon maintain a much higher profit margin than its peers. It is important to note that, while these metrics are useful in highlighting various advantages of each utility, none of these company's utility operations are in direct competition. Each utility operates in a geographical monopoly.