Florida Power & Light Co.’s profits rose 20 percent for the first quarter, driven by such increased investments in the business as new power plants, company officials said Tuesday.
FPL reported first-quarter net income of $288 million, or 68 cents per share, compared with $239 million, or 58 cents per share a year ago.
Parent company NextEra Energy, Inc. (NYSE: NEE) saw earnings increase 12.5 percent with first-quarter earnings of $475 million, or $1.12 per share, compared with $422 million, or $1.02 per share, in the first quarter of 2012. The stock closed Tuesday at 82.03, up 77 cents and a 52-week high.
In a conference call with analysts, Moray Dewhurst, vice chairman and chief financial officer of NextEra Energy, said the company believes if it completes its backlog of projects on time and on budget, it can grow earnings per share long term at 5 to 7 percent.
During the quarter, average regulatory capital employed grew by $3.4 billion, a 14 percent increase.
Projects underway include the modernization of FPL’s Riviera Beach plant, which is 53 percent complete and slated to begin producing power in June 2014. Its Cape Canaveral Next Generation Clean Energy Center began operating Thursday.
The demolition of FPL’s Port Everglades plant is set for July, and it’s projected to begin operating in June 2016.
Combined, the three new, more efficient power plants are expected to add about 3,700 megawatts of gas-fired generation. During the plants’ lifetimes, customers are projected to save more than $1 billion combined in fuel and other costs.
FPL completed a $3 billion addition of 500 megawatts at its St. Lucie and Turkey Point nuclear plants.
Dewhurst said the company began undergoing an internal review in April to look for ways to cut its operation and maintenance costs. It expects to use any savings to create capital for new projects.
The company’s retail revenues grew in the first quarter as a $350 million base rate increase took effect in January.
As Florida’s economy improves, FPL, with 4.6 million customer accounts, is experiencing growth. It had 33,000 more customers in the first quarter than a year ago. Positive signs included a 1.4 percent decline in the unemployment rate, a decline in the backlog of home foreclosures and an increase in building permits.
Although kilowatt hours sales fell 3.5 percent in the first quarter thanks to mild weather, customers are expected to begin using more electricity as their finances improve, Dewhurst said.
“What we have seen is that as people get more money, they tend to end up with larger houses, more electronic devices and they tend to feel a little more free to turn the thermostat down to be more comfortable, all kinds of things,” Dewhurst said.
NextEra Energy Resources, the company’s competitive energy business, had a slight earnings decline for the quarter. Its profits fell to $177 million, or 42 cents a share, compared to $182 million, or 44 cents per share in the same quarter last year.
In March, Energy Resources signed contracts for 150 megawatts of new U.S wind and 40 megawatts of new U.S. solar. It anticipates adding 500 megawatts to 1,500 megawatts of wind and 300 megawatts of solar projects over the next four years.