Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Firstenergy Looks to Switch the Topic from Power Plants

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Firstenergy Looks to Switch the Topic from Power Plants

Article excerpt

FirstEnergy Corp., the Akron, Ohio-based parent of West Penn Power, is tired of talking about its competitive power generation business, which includes the largest coal-fired power plant and nuclear station in southwestern Pennsylvania.

"After today, our focus shifts to customer service-driven growth across the utilities segment," said the company's new president and CEO, Chuck Jones.

About 80 percent of the company is regulated and "generating consistent predictable regulated earnings," he told analysts during an earnings call Wednesday.

FirstEnergy's plans for its nonregulated generation side, which has suffered in recent years because of low demand and low power prices as well as regulations that FirstEnergy believes distort the market, is to keep it cash flow positive and unexciting to talk about.

"I'd rather make it more predictable, more stable, and get it out of the conversation as much as I can," Mr. Jones said.

Mr. Jones took over as head of FirstEnergy on Jan. 1, after former CEO Tony Alexander, an outspoken critic of how energy markets are regulated, stepped down to become the company's executive chairman. This week, FirstEnergy announced Mr. Alexander will leave the company altogether by May 1.

It was under Mr. Alexander that the company began a transformation to focus primarily on its regulated businesses, which include transmission and distribution. Mr. Jones said he's been asked frequently about the possibility of selling FirstEnergy's power plants to fully isolate the company from this volatile business segment.

"Frankly, at this point in time, it doesn't make sense," he said.

The power plants are likely valued as low now as they ever will be, Mr. Jones explained, so it's not prudent to sell until more becomes clear about certain market overhauls and power prices in upcoming years. …

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