Public Utility Commission investigating PPL billing issues

The Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission has begun a comprehensive investigation into the circumstances surrounding unusually high bills recently received by customers served by PPL Electric Utilities, along with the accuracy and integrity of PPL’s billing practices.

The matter has been referred to the PUC’s independent Bureau of Investigation and Enforcement, a release said, which enforces the state public utility code and PUC regulations.

The PUC continues to encourage consumers to contact PPL with concerns about the size and accuracy of their bills, and work with the utility to explore options for corrected bills, payment options and financial assistance.

Consumers who do believe that PPL has failed to address their issues or hasn’t responded appropriately to their situation should contact the PUC’s Bureau of Consumer Services at 800-692-7380. If they are unable to reach PPL agents or don’t receive a response from PPL, consumers should contact the Bureau of Consumer Services to report those issues.

In a letter Tuesday to its customers, PPL said it had “resolved the technical issue that resulted in a significant number of bills that were based on estimated electricity usage” sent from Dec. 20, 2022, through Jan. 9.

“Estimates based on historical usage may have been higher or lower than actual usage. If this impacted you, you have either already received a corrected bill with actual usage or an adjustment on your next monthly bill to ensure you only pay for the electricity you used. By fixing the technical issue, we have restored customers’ access to detailed usage information online at pplelectric.com.”

PPL said it will not shut off power to residential and small-business customers for non-payment through March 31 and is waiving all late fees in January and February. “Any fees already charged in January will be credited to customer accounts. We continue to offer payment plans and assistance programs that can help if you are struggling to pay your electric bill.”

The utility said it was also adding more agents to answer calls and reduce wait times.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer

Moody’s upgrades PPL’s credit rating

Moody’s Investors Service has improved the investment-grade credit ratings of PPL Corp. and PPL Capital Funding Inc. after PPL Corp. purchased The Narragansett Electric Co.

The Allentown-based utility saw its issuer rating upgraded from Baa1 to Baa2. Moody’s also upgraded the senior unsecured ratings of PPL Capital Funding from Baa1 from Baa2.

The senior unsecured and issuer ratings of Narragansett Electric, now doing business as Rhode Island Energy, rose from A3 from Baa1 and its preferred stock securities rating was bumped up
from Baa2 from Baa3.

“These ratings upgrades reflect the improved financial strength of the new PPL following the sale of our U.K. utility business in 2021 and our recent acquisition of Narragansett Electric,” said
PPL President and CEO Vincent Sorgi.

“As a result of our strategic repositioning … U.S.-focused PPL has one of the utility sector’s best credit profiles, a balance sheet capable of supporting robust growth without equity needs for the foreseeable future, and a de-risked business plan to drive significant value for our shareowners and customers moving forward,” he said.

PPL Corp. is a major provider of electricity and natural gas, serving 3.5 million U.S. customers.

Paula Wolf is a freelance writer.

PPL finalizes sale of U.K. utility business

PPL Corp. is now officially out of the U.K. power business.

The Allentown company announced this morning that it has completed the sale of its U.K. utility business, Western Power Distribution, to National Grid for $10.7 billion.

It is the first of two transactions PPL announced in March with the goal of becoming a U.S.-focused company.

“Today’s sale recognizes the economic value that PPL created by advancing WPD into the premier collection of electricity distribution networks in the U.K., a company that year after year delivered operational excellence, superior customer satisfaction and innovative solutions to advance a cleaner energy future,” said Vincent Sorgi, PPL president and CEO.

Its second initiative is the planned acquisition of Narragansett Electric Co., Rhode Island’s primary electric and gas utility.

PPL said the $3.8 billion acquisition remains on track to close in March 2022 and both companies have submitted all regulatory filings necessary for the acquisition’s approval.

“Together, the sale of WPD and the acquisition of Narragansett Electric will better position PPL for long-term growth and success by simplifying our business mix, strengthening our credit metrics, improving our prospects for long-term earnings growth, and providing us greater financial flexibility to invest in sustainable energy solutions,” said Sorgi.

With the $6.6 billion left over from the deal, the company said it intends to “further strengthen its balance sheet and enhance opportunities for growth.”

It plans to reduce outstanding debt by approximately $3 billion to $3.5 billion and said it will “continue to evaluate the best use of the remaining proceeds to maximize shareowner value.” This includes potentially investing incremental capital at PPL’s utilities or in renewables, and repurchasing shares.

PPL deal sells U.K. utility, buys Rhode Island one

Allentown’s PPL Corp. is officially getting out of the power business in the United Kingdom, while bolstering its presence in the United States.

The company announced today that it has agreed to sell its U.K. utility business, Western Power Distribution, to National Grid plc for £7.8 billion, or around $10.8 billion in U.S. dollars.

At the same time, in a separate deal PPL said it plans to acquire National Grid’s Rhode Island utility business, the Narragansett Co. for $3.8 billion.

In a release, the company said this would transform PPL into a “high-growth, purely U.S.-focused energy company.”

The agreements with National Grid follow PPL’s announcement in August 2020 of plans to sell WPD, which comprises four distribution network operators serving 7.9 million customers in central and southwest England and south Wales.

Vincent Sorgi, president and CEO of PPL Corp. commented on the transactions.

“The strategic transactions we are announcing today immediately unlock value for shareowners and achieve the objectives we set out in launching the process to sell our U.K. utility business,” said Sorgi. “They will refocus our business mix squarely on strong, rate-regulated U.S. utilities; strengthen our credit metrics; enhance long-term earnings growth and predictability; and provide us with greater financial flexibility to invest in sustainable energy solutions for those we serve.”

Under the terms of the agreements, PPL said it will sell its U.K. subsidiary holding the interests in WPD to National Grid in an all-cash transaction valued at £14.4 billion, including the assumption of approximately £6.6 billion of debt.

The company said the sale is expected to result in net cash proceeds of approximately $10.2 billion, based on a foreign currency exchange rate.

Separately, PPL will acquire Narragansett Electric from National Grid in a transaction valued at $5.3 billion, including the assumption of approximately $1.5 billion of Narragansett Electric’s debt.

PPL said it plans to use a portion of the proceeds from the sale of WPD to National Grid to finance the acquisition.

After the transactions are complete, PPL will have approximately 3.5 million electricity and gas customers in the U.S.

That includes approximately 780,000 customers from Narragansett Electric’s electricity transmission and distribution and gas distribution businesses in Rhode Island.

PPL Corp. to sell U.K. utility business, focus on U.S.

PPL Corp. plans to sell its United Kingdom utility business, Western Power Distribution, to focus on the U.S. market.

The Allentown-based company said in a statement that selling the U.K. business it will make the company a “purely U.S.-focused utility holding company and create additional shareowner value.”

PPL president and CEO Vincent Sorgi said the move comes after the board of directors assessed a comprehensive strategic review of the company’s business mix and future growth opportunities.

“WPD is a very strong business that continues to perform exceptionally well as the premier distribution network operator group in the U.K., but we believe it continues to be undervalued by the market as part of PPL,” he said. “We believe that greater value can be achieved for PPL shareowners through a sale of the U.K. business and use of proceeds that would be focused on strengthening PPL’s balance sheet and enhancing the company’s long-term earnings growth, which could include supporting strategic growth opportunities in the U.S. and returning capital to shareowners.”

WPD, which serves about 8 million customers in central and southwest England and south Wales, is expected to play a critical role in supporting the U.K.’s transition to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, he noted.

PPL engaged JP Morgan Securities LLC to act as its financial adviser on the sale process. PPL hopes to complete the sale in the first half of 2021.

PPL said it expects to evaluate a variety of offers for the purchase of WPD, including all cash or a combination of cash and U.S. utility assets.

Rate break coming for UGI customers

UGI Utilities Inc., South District, is reporting that it will lower its natural gas rates beginning Sep. 1, which should mean a drop on the average residential heating customer’s bill of 1.93 percent.

That would mean those normally paying $68.75 per month would be paying $67.42 per month.

“This change reflects actual and projected gas costs related to wholesale supply purchases,” said Chris Brown, UGI vice president and general manager of rates and supply,

By law, utilities are required to pass the cost of the natural gas they purchase directly through to customers without any markup.

UGI Utilities Inc., South District, serves more than 392,000 customers in 16 eastern and southcentral counties in Pennsylvania.

PPL names new president

Vincent Sorgi promoted to president and chief operating officer for PPL Corp. (Photo submitted) –

PPL Corp. of Allentown has promoted Vincent Sorgi to president and COO. He will take on the new role as of July 1.

The company said Sorgi will lead execution of PPL’s long-term growth strategy and be responsible for the overall operational performance of PPL’s seven utilities in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Sorgi has served as PPL’s CFO since 2014 and has been in the utility industry for 25 years.

Sorgi will report to William Spence, who will continue to serve as PPL chair and CEO, positions Spence has held since 2012 in addition to serving as president since 2011.

Taking over the CFO role will be Joseph P. Bergstein Jr., who also has been named senior vice president.

Bergstein served as vice president for investor relations and corporate development and planning since 2018, and previously as treasurer.

He will be responsible for PPL’s accounting, treasury, financial planning, tax, risk management and investor relations functions.