(SRE) Sempra Energy Gets Nod for Wind Project

Sempra Generation, a subsidiary of Sempra Energy (SRE), received approval from The Hawaii Public Utilities Commission for a 20-year contract to supply 21 megawatts (MW) of wind power from its Auwahi Wind project to the Maui Electric Company.

The project is currently undergoing environmental review by Maui County, the state of Hawaii and federal agencies. Pursuant to their approval, construction on Auwahi Wind is slated to begin in early 2012. The project’s estimated one-year construction period is expected to create approximately 150 construction jobs at peak and five full-time positions to operate the facility.

Sempra’s Auwahi project will deliver a new supply of clean, renewable power to Maui residents and reduce the region’s dependence on volatile sources of imported energy. Once fully operational, Auwahi Wind is expected to generate enough emission-free electricity to power around 10,000 typical Maui homes.  This new source of locally-produced wind energy will help Hawaii attain its clean energy goal of obtaining 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

Furthermore, the Auwahi Wind constitutes a battery storage unit capable of storing electricity generated by the project’s wind turbines during the typically windy morning and night hours.  This stored power will help to regulate and smooth intermittent wind power, providing a valuable source of grid stability for Maui Electric.

In May this year, Sempra Energy announced its first-quarter 2011 earnings of $1.07 per share, surpassing the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $1.02 and last year’s 42 cents per share. Total revenue of Sempra Energy in the first-quarter 2011 was $2.4 billion versus $2.5 billion in the year-ago period, reflecting a drop of 3.9%. Reported revenue in the quarter was also lower than the Zacks Consensus Estimate by $23 million.

Sempra Energy’s diversified basket of businesses insulates its operations to a great extent from regulatory rate risks. Sempra presents a lower risk profile relative to its peers. This outlook is supported by stable utility earnings, steady progress at its LNG terminals, ongoing installations of smart meter and renewable power projects in the Pacific Southwest. The company presently retains a short-term Zacks #2 Rank (Buy).

Sempra Energy is a southern California-based energy services holding company involved in the sale, distribution, storage, and transportation of electricity and natural gas. Its subsidiary, Sempra Generation, operates and maintains a fleet of natural gas-fueled power plants, and is a leading developer of solar and wind facilities that serve U.S. markets. Sempra Energy competes with the likes of Edison International (EIX) and PG&E Corp. (PCG).

Maui Electric Company is an investor-owned, publicly regulated utility serving residents and businesses on the islands of Maui, Lanai and Molokai in the state of Hawaii.  It is owned by Hawaiian Electric Company, which is a subsidiary of Hawaiian Electric Industries (HE).

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