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CMS Energy (CMS) Files RFP to Buy Natural Gas-fired Plant

Zacks Equity Research

CMS Energy Corp.’s CMS primary subsidiary, Consumers Energy has filed a request for proposal (“RFP”) to obtain a natural gas-fired generating plant, with a capacity of up to 800 megawatts (“MW”) in Michigan. This RFP is in line with the company's plans to fulfill long-term energy needs consistently in the same place.

Notably, CMS energy intends to acquire an existing plant to compensate the electric capacity and energy that is provided by the Palisades nuclear plant, which it plans to exterminate.

Details of Palisades Nuclear Plant

Located on Lake Michigan, in Van Buren County's Covert Township, MI, the plant is owned and operated by Entergy Corporation ETR. Entergy and Consumers Energy had a power purchase agreement (“PPA”) under which the latter is entitled to purchase almost all of the power that Palisades plant generates through Apr 2022.

Now both of them have agreed to an early termination of the PPA for the Palisades Power Plant in 2018. The agreement is subject to the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (“MPSC”) consent on an alteration request for early termination of the PPA. If the MPSC gives a green light to the amendment request, the PPA termination date will move to May 31, 2018.

Notably, this termination of the PPA will reduce costs of the customers of Consumers Energy by as much as $172 million over four years. Also, it is likely to benefit customers and communities by lowering costs without diminishing electric reliability.

The transaction is projected to bring about $344 million in total savings. While, about $172 million of the savings is expected to reduce costs of Consumers Energy customers’ over the early termination period from 2018 to 2022, $172 million will be paid to Entergy in 2018 when the PPA terminates.

Consumer’s Energy’s Take on the Deal

According to Tim Sparks, Consumers Energy's Vice President of energy supply operations, the company is undertaking a balanced approach to provide its customers with affordable, reliable and sustainable electricity required to meet their daily energy needs.

He added that their approach will employ a varied set of resources that covers “more energy efficiency and demand response programs to facilitate energy waste reduction, purchase of capacity and energy from resources converting from coal as a fuel to natural gas”. Notably, the current RFP will enable Consumers Energy to buy of one or more existing natural gas assets. At present, the company is concerned about acquiring a simple-cycle or combined-cycle generating plant that is operating in Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

About CMS Energy

CMS Energy’s regulated electric power operations in Michigan generate a relatively stable and growing earnings stream. It is currently focusing on several issues such as capacity maximization, reliability improvement, clean power generation and infrastructure upgrade.

Moreover, the company’s capital investments have helped it to reduce operation and maintenance costs by 3% over the 2014–2016 period. Moving forward, CMS Energy expects to reduce these costs by another 2% between 2017 and 2019.

The company also has a large natural gas system in place and plans to expand it over the next decade. Additionally, it is looking forward to deploy around $8.0 billion for its projects under gas operations between 2017 and 2026. In the meantime, the company also plans to invest around $3.8 billion, through 2021. This ambitious growth plan includes $1.8 billion for the replacement of aging infrastructure and improvement of service reliability over the next five years.

Price Movement

CMS Energy’s share price has gained 5% in the last one year, outperforming the Zacks categorized Utility - Electric Power industry’s loss of 1.9%. The gain might have been driven by its plans to spend $18 billion between 2017 and 2026, the majority of which will be directed toward infrastructure development projects that include investment of $9 billion allocated for 2021. These initiatives will enable the company to provide reliable services to its customers and achieve its long-term EPS growth target in the range of 6–8% in 2017. Furthermore, the company poses strong competition to its peers DTE Energy Company DTE and Ameren Corporation AEE.

Zacks Rank

CMS Energy currently carries a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold). You can see the complete list of today’s Zacks #1 Rank (Strong Buy) stocks here.

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