Calpine reports record electric output in third quarter

HOUSTON Tue Nov 6, 2012 7:19pm EST

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HOUSTON Nov 6 (Reuters) - Calpine Corp, operator of the nation's largest fleet of natural gas-fired power plants, produced 33 million megawatt-hours of electricity in the third quarter, up 14 percent from the same quarter last year even though summer temperatures were cooler overall, the company said on Tuesday.

Houston-based Calpine said power output was a record for the summer quarter even as coal plants operated more hours to meet air conditioning demand across the country.

Calpine's power production in Texas eased 7 percent in the quarter, but was not far below the pace seen last year when a record heat wave and drought covered the state, said Thad Hill, Calpine's chief operating officer.

Gas-plant output rose more than 60 percent in Calpine's western region due to lower hydro supply compared to 2011 and an extended outage at the San Onofre nuclear plant that reduced the region's nuclear supply.

Calpine officials attributed the 31 percent year-over-year production gain in northern U.S. markets to continued coal-to-gas switching.

When gas was around $3 per million British thermal units earlier this year, Calpine saw utilities choose less-expensive gas over coal-fired generation in every region it operates, Hill said.

Hill said that, as gas prices have risen, he expects some coal-to-gas switching in the Eastern markets but not in Texas.

Calpine also announced the sale of its Broad River Energy Center, an 847-megawatt simple-cycle plant in South Carolina, for $427 million, or about $504 per kilowatt.

Calpine is selling power plants in South Carolina and Wisconsin to focus on Texas and California where it is adding generation through new construction and acquisition.

For the first nine months of the year, Calpine plants produced 90 million MWh, up 31 percent from 2011, while operating expenses were generally flat, said Jack Fusco, Calpine chief executive.

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