TransAlta to convert 3 coal units to gas under Clean Energy Plan
Calgary: On September 16, TransAlta Corporation released a long-term plan for the strategic management of its generation fleet, titled the “Clean Energy Investment Plan.” The plan includes converting its existing Alberta coal assets to natural gas, advancing its position in renewable energy and “furthering its commitment to a sustainable future.” The total cost of the plan is expected to be approximately $2 billion, which includes approximately $800 million of renewable energy projects already under construction.
TransAlta's plan includes converting three of its existing Alberta thermal units to gas in 2020 and 2021 by replacing existing coal burners with natural gas burners. The Company will also convert two of its units to highly efficient combined cycle natural gas units in the late 2023 to late 2024 period. The highlights of these gas conversion investments include:
• Positioning TransAlta's fleet as a low-cost generator in the Alberta energy-only market;
• Generating attractive returns by leveraging the Company's existing infrastructure;
• Significantly extending the life and cash flows of the Alberta thermal assets; and
• Significantly reducing air emissions and costs.
The Company's Clean Energy Investment Plan also includes four wind projects in the United States and Alberta that are currently under construction. These projects are underpinned by long-term power purchase agreements with creditworthy counterparties.
The Clean Energy Investment Plan will be funded from the cash raised earlier this year through the strategic investment with an affiliate of Brookfield Renewable Partners, cash generated from operations, and through TransAlta Renewables Inc. In addition to funding the plan, the company says it remains committed to returning up to $250 million to shareholders over the next three years through share repurchases and reducing its corporate level debt by $400 million in 2020.
The Company has adopted, based on TransAlta level deconsolidated cash flows, a Debt/EBITDA target of 3.0x or less, and a dividend policy of returning between 10% and 15% of TransAlta deconsolidated Funds from Operations to common shareholders. The term “TransAlta level” refers to a simplified accounting drawn from the more detailed statement of TransAlta Corporation financials less TransAlta Renewables financials. The credit metrics and dividend policy are being presented on a deconsolidated basis, allowing investors to understand how the dividends received from TransAlta Renewables is either being returned or invested for TransAlta shareholders.