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Westar's Elm Creek Project Ok'd

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Westar Energy, Inc. (:WR) has received approval for the construction of a 345-kilovolt Elm Creek transmission line project from Southwest Power Pool (“SPP”).

Westar Energy will build the southern half of this line, which will cost approximately $67 million. The southern half runs from Westar Energy's Summit Substation, about five miles northeast of Assaria in Saline County, to the Elm Creek Substation, approximately four miles northwest of Aurora in Cloud County. The second half i.e. the northern half will be built by ITC Great Plains, a unit of ITC Holdings Corp. (:ITC), in conjunction with Mid Kansas Electric.

Under the SPP planning process, the projects’ cost estimates are evaluated at several steps. This confirms the economic benefits that will be realized from the projects. Therefore, the SPP approval demonstrates that the customers will be able to realize economic benefits from this project. Moreover, this transmission line will result in improving electric reliability and efficiency in the region.

The company will file a route application with the Kansas Corporation Commission (“KCC”) and expects KCC to issue a decision regarding the route later in 2013.

The company’s ongoing investment in electrical infrastructure will not only enhance electric reliability but will also provide construction jobs and support ongoing economic growth. Apart from serving its corporate social responsibilities via these projects, the company is also doing well with respect to profit generation. Recently, Westar Energy had announced fourth quarter pro forma earnings of 36 cents per share, up 125% from year-ago earnings of 16 cents per share. The company’s earnings significantly topped the Zacks Consensus Estimate by 80%.

Other projects under Westar’s belt that are expected to fetch lucrative returns include the Ironwood Wind Power Project in Ford and Hodgeman counties, the Post Rock Wind Farm located in Ellsworth and Lincoln counties, Prairie Wind joint venture and Westar Energy’s ReliabiliTree program. The company presently retains a short-term Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Besides Westar, other stocks worth the consideration are Pike Electric Corporation (:PIKE) and CenterPoint Energy, Inc. (:CNP). While Pike Electric carries a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), CenterPoint (:CNP) carries a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

Westar Energy, Inc., an electric utility, engages in the generation, transmission, and distribution of electricity in Kansas. It produces electricity through various sources, including coal, wind, nuclear, natural gas, oil, and diesel. The company is also involved in energy marketing activities, and the purchase and sale of electricity in the wholesale market.


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