KELOWNA, BRITISH COLUMBIA--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 2, 2006) - Fortis Inc. (TSX:FTS) and FortisBC Inc. -
FortisBC Inc. today announced its 2005 year end results, reporting net earnings of $23.5 million, an increase of $1.6 million over 2004. The higher earnings for 2005 were primarily due to increased revenue from higher electricity sales.
"FortisBC's first full year as a member of the Fortis Inc. group of companies included a number of significant improvements in the areas of customer service, safety and system reliability," noted John Walker, President & CEO, FortisBC. "These results are impressive as they were achieved through a period of considerable transition, in which the Company separated from its Alberta counterpart, became a stand-alone operation, and significantly expanded its employee base."
Electricity sales in 2005 were 3,009 gigawatt hours (GWh), an increase of 104 GWh compared to 2,905 GWh in 2004. This 3.6% increase was due to customer growth and increased heating loads caused by cooler winter weather in 2005. The increase in customers was primarily the result of continued population growth in the Okanagan area.
On May 31, 2005 the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) approved a 3.4% increase effective January 1, 2005. The increase was primarily required to support the Company's extensive capital plan necessary to upgrade aging infrastructure and address customer growth.
"We believe it is important to help customers manage rising electricity costs by educating them about using energy efficiently," said Walker. "In 2005 our customers conserved approximately 23 gigawatt hours of energy through the adoption of energy efficient upgrades. We are committed to helping customers manage their electricity usage through our energy efficiency programs and educational materials such as our recent Top 10 Energy Saving Tips Under $20."
FortisBC undertook an extensive capital program in 2005, investing approximately $108 million to respond to growing energy demand as a result of increased customer growth and to enhance the reliability of the Company's electricity system.
The Company's capital program included the commissioning of the Vaseux Lake substation, a key milestone in FortisBC's South Okanagan Supply Reinforcement Project. The substation will enable the Company to meet growing energy demands in the South Okanagan and provide improved reliability to customers in the Okanagan Valley and Kootenay-Boundary regions. FortisBC completed the first phase of the Kelowna Area Transmission Upgrade project to meet increasing load and maintain system reliability in the Kelowna region. The Company also invested in its generation asset upgrade and life extension program to rebuild generating plants and related auxiliary systems.
In surveys conducted in 2005, customers gave FortisBC an overall customer satisfaction rating of 81%. This represents a 10% increase over the Company's rating in 2004 of 71%.
"FortisBC's higher customer satisfaction rating is a significant achievement, considering the many transitional challenges we faced in 2005," explained Walker. "The approximately 30% increase in our employee base and the establishment of a new head office and call centre within our service territory have all contributed to our higher level of customer service."
FortisBC's safety performance improved through a reduction of employee injuries and lost work days over 2004, despite a major increase in the Company's workforce and the extensive capital work undertaken in 2005. The Company also launched a cooperative public safety program with other British Columbia utilities and safety organizations to create improved public awareness of potential electrical hazards.
FortisBC is an integrated utility operating in the southern interior of British Columbia, serving approximately 150,000 customers directly and indirectly. The utility has four hydroelectric generating plants with a combined capacity of 235 megawatts and over 6,400 kilometers of transmission and distribution power lines. FortisBC employs over 500 people in British Columbia and is an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Fortis Inc. - primarily a diversified, international electric utility holding company based in St. John's, Newfoundland, with assets exceeding $4.1 billion and annual revenues of over $1.2 billion. The Common Shares, Series C First Preference Shares and Series E First Preference Shares of Fortis Inc. are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbols FTS, FTS.PR.C and FTS.PR.E, respectively. Fortis Inc. information can be accessed at www.fortisinc.com.
FortisBC may include forward-looking statements in this release. By their very nature, forward-looking statements are based on underlying assumptions and are subject to inherent risks and uncertainties surrounding future expectations generally. Such events include, but are not limited to, general economic, market and business conditions, regulatory developments, weather and competition. FortisBC cautions readers that should certain events or uncertainties materialize, or should underlying assumptions prove incorrect, actual results may vary significantly from those expected. For additional information with respect to certain of these risks or factors, reference should be made to FortisBC's continuous disclosure materials filed from time to time with Canadian Securities Regulatory Authorities. FortisBC disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise.
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Manager, Corporate Communications