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American Electric Power Company Inc (AEP), Duke Energy Corp (DUK)- Five Utilities Making Moves: New Natural Gas and Neglected Nuclear

Earnings announcements aside, utilities have been busy this week. From asset expansion and rejection to ditched nuclear plans, here’s what you need to know to stay on top of your dividend stocks’ latest moves.

American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP)

Nice assets
Across the pond, Britain-based utility National Grid plc (ADR) (NYSE:NGG) announced this week that it plans to grow its regulated assets by approximately 6% per year. In 2013/2014, the company will invest $5.5 billion to $6.0 billion in its businesses.

“Our businesses have started the year well,” said Chief Executive Steve Holliday in a statement. “As a result, we are maintaining our outlook for 2013/14, reflecting the expected delivery of another year of solid operating and financial performance.”

While National Grid plc (ADR) (NYSE:NGG) continues to expand its assets, American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP) is having trouble shifting around its own. Ahead of the 2015 deregulation of all Ohio utilities, American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP) has been attempting to add its Ohio assets on elsewhere. Virginia regulators announced this week that, although they will allow American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP)’s Appalachian Power Company to take on the remaining one-third of a 2,900 MW coal plant and merge with American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP)-owned Wheeling Power, they are rejecting the utility’s request to add half-ownership of a 1,600 MW coal plant. In a response to regulators, American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP) President and CEO Nicholas Akins wrote:

Although the Virginia Commission approved the merger of Wheeling Power with Appalachian Power, denial of the Mitchell Plant ownership transfer is a complicating factor because there will be insufficient generation resources to serve the merged company. American Electric Power Company Inc (NYSE:AEP) intends to bring this matter to the attention of the parties and the Public Service Commission of West Virginia in the asset transfer case and may reevaluate the merger .

Duke’s new decisions

Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK) reports earnings Wednesday, and an information-packed press release last week may be meant to split up some of the big decisions recently made by the utility.

Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK) is taking a bigger (read “$295 million larger”) hit on closure costs for its Crystal River Nuclear plant, and is also scuttling plans (for now) for a $24.7 billion Florida nuclear plant due to regulatory delays, as well as market conditions.

The company also hinted that 875 MW of environmentally expensive coal capacity could be headed for early retirement to avoid compliance costs. As the sole sign of capacity expansion in the announcement, regulators have approved 1,150 MW of gas-fired generation that must be up and running by 2018. If Duke Energy Corp (NYSE:DUK) wants, it can also ask for an additional 1,800 MW by 2019.

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