CALGARY, Alberta (March 3, 2021)

Full-Year 2020 Financial Highlights

  • Comparable EBITDA(1) of $462 million, increase of 5% from 2019
  • Adjusted funds from operations (“AFFO”)(1) of $355 million, increase of 3% from 2019
  • Cash available for distribution (“CAFD”)(1) of $304 million or $1.14 per share, increase of 3% on a per-share basis compared to 2019

 

TransAlta Renewables Inc. (“TransAlta Renewables” or the “Company”) (TSX: RNW) announced today solid financial results for the three months and year ended December 31, 2020 along with its 2021 outlook.

“Despite the ongoing challenges that COVID-19 presents, our results for the year demonstrated the strength and resilience of our diversified portfolio and highlighted the growth in our business and underlying cash flows, ” said Todd Stack, President. “With the most recent announced 303 MW of drop-downs effective for 2021, our focus now turns to executing further on our growth strategy by leveraging opportunities here in Canada and abroad in Australia and the US. Working with TransAlta, we have access to a significant pipeline of development and M&A opportunities to support our growth objectives.”

 

Full-Year 2020 Results Summary

 

The Company’s renewable power production increased by 724 GWh in 2020 or 19 per cent as compared to 2019. This increase was mainly due to higher production in the US Wind and Solar segment as a result of a full year of operations at the Big Level and Antrim wind facilities which were commissioned in December 2019, higher wind resource in Canadian Wind and higher water resource in Canadian Hydro.

 

Comparable EBITDA increased by $24 million or five per cent compared to 2019. This increase is primarily due to the full year of  operations at the Big Level and Antrim wind facilities, higher production in the Canadian Wind and Canadian Hydro segments, and the strengthening of the Australian dollar in the Australia Gas segment. These gains were partially offset by the settlement of the Alberta Electricity System Operator (“AESO”) line loss proceeding, timing of carbon offset revenues, insurance proceeds recorded in 2019 and lower incentives driven by the planned expiry of certain Wind Power Production Incentives in 2019. The AESO line loss proceeding  caused the  Company to recognize a charge of $6 million for out-of-period transmission line losses that were incurred throughout 2006 to 2016. This amount was for historical transmission line losses that were incorrectly calculated and billed by the AESO for the periods relating to 2006-2016 and were found by the Alberta Utilities Commission not to have been compliant with Alberta regulations. The AESO has been recalculating and rebilling all affected parties with the corrected amounts along with the associated interest.

 

CAFD increased by $11 million or four per cent compared to 2019, primarily due to higher comparable EBITDA and lower sustaining capital which was partially offset by higher tax equity distributions at Big Level and Antrim, higher realized foreign exchange loss, and timing of line loss settlements. CAFD was also offset by higher cash taxes and higher interest and principal payments resulting from the proceeds of the South Hedland financing that occurred in October 2020.

 

Net earnings attributable to common shareholders were $92 million for the year ended Dec. 31, 2020, which decreased by $87 million compared to 2019. The decrease is primarily driven by an unfavourable change in fair value of $108 million and lower finance income of $7 million resulting from the redemption of the Australian Preferred Shares tracking the Amortizing Term Loan that were redeemed on Oct. 23, 2020 by utilizing the proceeds from the South Hedland financing. In addition, a decrease in earnings totalling $30 million was due to an increase in income tax expense, the settlement of the AESO transmission line loss proceeding  and one-time insurance proceeds received in 2019. Partially offsetting these unfavourable earnings was a foreign exchange gain of $58 million resulting from the strengthening of the Australian dollar relative to the Canadian dollar on our Australian asset investments.

 

Fourth Quarter 2020 Results Summary

 

The Company’s renewable power production increased by 163 GWh or 14 per cent for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. This increase was mainly due to higher wind resource at Canadian Wind, higher water resource at Canadian Hydro, and higher production in US Wind and Solar from the addition of Big Level and Antrim facilities compared to the same period in 2019.

 

Comparable EBITDA increased $8 million to $133 million for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2020 compared to 2019. The increased comparable EBITDA was mainly driven by the full year period of operations at Big Level and Antrim facilities which were commissioned in December 2019, higher wind resources, timing of legal fees and strengthening Australian currency at Australian Gas. This was partially offset by the recognition of the AESO line loss proceeding and lower government incentive revenues from the planned expiry of certain Wind Power Production Incentives in 2019 at Canadian Wind.

 

CAFD for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2020 decreased by $5 million to $72 million. This was primarily driven by higher comparable EBITDA contributions that were more than offset by higher distributions relating to the US tax equity financings at Big Level and Antrim facilities, higher interest expense related to the South Hedland financing, higher sustaining capital expenditures and impacts of realized foreign exchange settlements.

 

Reported net earnings attributable to common shareholders for the three months ended Dec. 31, 2020, was $53 million. Reported net earnings attributable to common shareholders increased by $5 million, primarily due to higher finance income this quarter of $10 million, partially offset by a higher income tax expense of $2 million and a higher unfavourable change in the fair value of financial assets of $4 million related to investments in subsidiaries of TransAlta.

 

Significant Events and Other Updates

 

Acquisition of 303 MW Generation Portfolio, including 274 MW of Wind Generation

On Dec. 23, 2020, the Company announced it had entered into definitive agreements for the acquisition of three assets from TransAlta consisting of direct ownership of the 207 MW Windrise wind project, a 49 per cent economic interest in the 137 MW Skookumchuck wind facility and a 100 per cent economic interest in the 29 MW Ada cogeneration facility for an acquisition price of $439 million. The acquisition of the Windrise wind project closed on Feb 26, 2021, and the acquisition of the economic interest in the Ada cogeneration facility and the Skookumchuck wind facility are expected to close in the second quarter of 2021. The economic benefit of each transaction will be effective as at Jan. 1, 2021. Both Windrise and Skookumchuck facilities are fully contracted to customers under 20-year PPA terms. The Ada cogeneration facility has a remaining term of approximately five years on its power purchase agreement.

 

BHP Nickel West Contract Extension

Southern Cross Energy (“SCE”), a subsidiary of TransAlta Energy (Australia) Ltd Pty (“TEA”), replaced and extended its current PPA with BHP Billiton Nickel West Pty Ltd. (“BHP”) that was scheduled to expire Dec. 31, 2023. The new agreement was effective Dec. 1, 2020, and extends the term to Dec. 31, 2038. The PPA provides SCE with the exclusive right to supply thermal and electrical energy from its facilities for BHP’s mining operations located in the Goldfields region of Western Australia. Evaluations of renewable energy supply and carbon emissions reduction initiatives are underway in support of our customer’s emission reduction targets, including an 18.5 MW solar photovoltaic project supported by a battery energy storage system and a waste heat steam turbine system.

 

South Hedland Power Station Debt Financing

On Oct. 22, 2020, TEC Hedland Pty Ltd. (“TEC”), a subsidiary of TEA, closed an AU$800 million senior secured note offering, by way of a private placement, which is secured by, among other things, a first-ranking charge over all assets of TEC. The Company owns an indirect economic interest in TEC which forms part of the Australian cash flows. The notes bear interest of 4.07 per cent per annum, payable quarterly, and mature on Jun. 30, 2042, with principal payments starting on Mar. 31, 2022. Proceeds were received by the Company through the redemption of tracking preferred shares, preferred shares and an intercompany loan to the Company by TEA with the remainder of proceeds remaining in TEA used to fund required reserves and transaction costs. Proceeds were used to repay the credit facility and will fund the 303 MW generation portfolio acquired from TransAlta along with other growth opportunities expected in 2021.

 

Acquisition of WindCharger Battery Storage Project

On Aug. 1, 2020, the Company acquired the 10 MW/20 MWh WindCharger project that is connected to the Alberta transmission system through the Summerview 2 wind facility substation from a subsidiary for $12 million. The Company executed a 20-year battery energy storage contract with TransAlta where TransAlta pays a fixed capacity change for the exclusive right to operate and dispatch the battery into the Alberta power market.

 

2021 Financial Outlook

The Company announced its outlook for 2021 comparable EBITDA to be estimated between $480 to $520 million representing approximately eight per cent growth on EBITDA. The Company expects comparable EBITDA to increase with the full year economic benefit  of the Skookumchuck wind facility and the Ada cogeneration facility effective Jan. 1, 2021. We also anticipate a further increase in comparable EBITDA in the latter part of 2021 once Windrise has completed construction and reaches commercial operations during the second half of 2021. We expect AFFO and CAFD to be in line with 2020 levels as financing expenses increase due to the full year impact of the South Hedland debt interest on distributions of TEA and the tax equity impact on distributions from Skookumchuck, cash settlement of the AESO line loss, and sustaining capex driven by the Ada acquisition.

 

The following table summarizes TransAlta Renewables’ financial targets for 2021:

CA$ millions

2020 Results

2020 Outlook

2021 Outlook

Comparable EBITDA

462

445 – 475

480 – 520

AFFO

355

350 – 380

335 – 365

CAFD

304

300 – 330

285 – 315

 

We expect renewable energy production from our wind and hydro assets, including those owned through economic interests, in 2021 to be in the range of 4,100 to 4,500 GWh. Upon closing of the acquisition of the Skookumchuck economic interest and the commencement of commercial operations of Windrise, renewable energy production is expected to be in the range of 4,400 to 4,900 GWh. Our gas-fired generation primarily provides compensation for capacity, and accordingly, production is not a significant performance indicator of that business.      

 

President Succession

Effective Feb. 5, 2021, John Kousinioris resigned as President and as a member of the Board of Directors of the Company. Effective April 1, 2021, Mr. Kousinioris will assume the role of President and Chief Executive Officer of TransAlta and will join the Board of TransAlta. Mr. Kousinioris will succeed Mrs. Dawn Farrell, who after leading TransAlta for almost a decade, will retire from TransAlta on Mar. 31, 2021.

 

Following Mr. Kousinioris’ resignation, Todd Stack assumed the role of President and joined the Board of the Company effective Feb. 6, 2021. Mr. Stack continues as TransAlta’s Executive Vice President, Finance and Chief Financial Officer.

 

Global Pandemic

TransAlta, as the manager and operator of the Company’s business and assets, continues to operate under its business continuity plan, which focuses on ensuring that: (i) TransAlta employees that could work remotely did so; and (ii) TransAlta employees that operate and maintain our facilities, who were not able to work remotely, were able to work safely and in a manner that ensured they remained healthy. During the second and third quarters of 2020, TransAlta successfully brought employees that were working remotely back to the office without sacrificing health and safety standards. In November 2020, as a result of the rising COVID-19 case counts in the Province of Alberta and in light of office attendance restrictions eventually imposed by the Government of Alberta, staff at TransAlta’s head office returned to remote work protocols. All of TransAlta’s offices and sites follow strict health screening and physical distancing protocols with personal protective equipment readily available. Further, TransAlta maintains travel bans aligned to local jurisdictional guidance, enhanced cleaning procedures, revised work schedules, contingent work teams and the reorganization of processes and procedures to limit contact with other employees and contractors on-site.

 

All of our facilities, including those which we have economic interests through TransAlta, continue to remain fully operational and capable of meeting our customers’ needs. The Company continues to work and serve all of our customers and counterparties under the terms of their contracts. We have not experienced interruptions to service requirements. Electricity and steam supply continue to remain a critical service requirement to all of our customers and have been deemed an essential service in our jurisdictions.

 

 

The following table depicts key financial results and statistical operating data:

 

Fourth Quarter and Year Ended December 31, 2020 Highlights

 

In CA$ millions, unless otherwise stated

3 Months Ended

Year Ended

Dec. 31, 2020

Dec. 31, 2019

Dec. 31, 2020

Dec. 31, 2019

Renewable energy production (GWh)(2)

1,336

1,173

4,471

3,747

Revenues

128

119

436

446

Net earnings (loss) attributable to common shareholders

53

48

92

179

Comparable EBITDA(1)

133

125

462

438

Adjusted funds from operations(1)

94

100

355

343

Cash flow from operating activities

49

73

267

331

Cash available for distribution(1)

72

77

304

293

Net earnings (loss) per share attributable to common shareholders, basic and diluted

0.20

0.18

0.35

0.68

Adjusted funds from operations per share(1)

0.35

0.38

1.33

1.30

Cash available for distribution per share(1)

0.27

0.29

1.14

1.11

Dividends declared per common share

0.23

0.23

0.94

0.94

Dividends paid per common share(3)

0.23

0.23

0.94

0.94

 

The following tables provide further detail on the allocation of the comparable EBITDA between owned assets and assets in which TransAlta Renewables holds an economic interest; as well as a reconciliation to AFFO.

 

3 Months Ended Dec. 31 (CA$ millions)

2020

2019

 

Owned Assets

Economic Interest

Total

Owned Assets

Economic Interest

Total

 

Comparable EBITDA(1)

80

53

133

77

48

125

 

Interest expense

(12)

(6)

(18)

(11)

(11)

 

Sustaining capital expenditures

(5)

(7)

(12)

(8)

(2)

(10)

 

Current income tax expense

(4)

(4)

(1)

(2)

(3)

 

Tax equity distributions

(7)

(7)

(2)

(2)

 

Distributions paid to subsidiaries’ non-controlling interest

(1)

(1)

(1)

(1)

 

Realized foreign exchange gain (loss)

(1)

(1)

3

3

 

Insurance recovery

(5)

(5)

 

Provisions

3

3

 

Currency adjustment, reserves, interest income and other

2

(1)

1

2

2

4

 

AFFO(1)

66

28

94

61

39

100

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 Months Ended Dec. 31 (CA$ millions)

2020

2019

Owned Assets

Economic Interest

Total

Owned Assets

Economic Interest

Total

Comparable EBITDA(1)

262

200

462

272

166

438

Interest expense

(41)

(6)

(47)

(41)

(41)

Sustaining capital expenditures

(17)

(10)

(27)

(30)

(7)

(37)

Current income tax expense

(1)

(12)

(13)

(2)

(8)

(10)

Tax equity distributions

(23)

(23)

(6)

(6)

Distributions paid to subsidiaries’ non-controlling interest

(5)

(5)

(5)

(5)

Realized foreign exchange loss

(4)

(4)

(1)

(1)

Provisions

7

7

Insurance recovery

(4)

(5)

(9)

Currency adjustment, reserves, interest income and other

6

(1)

5

8

6

14

AFFO(1)

207

148

355

197

146

343

 

TransAlta Renewables is in the process of filing its Annual Information Form, Audited Consolidated Financial Statements and accompanying notes, as well as the associated Management’s Discussion and Analysis (“MD&A”). These documents will be available today through TransAlta Renewables’ website at www.transaltarenewables.com or through SEDAR at www.sedar.com.

 

Notes

(1) Comparable EBITDA refers to earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization including finance lease income and adjusted for certain other items. AFFO includes the deduction of sustaining capital expenditures and distributions to non-controlling interests and excludes the effects of timing and working capital on distributions from subsidiaries of TransAlta in which the Company holds an economic interest. CAFD refers to adjusted funds from operations less principal repayments of amortizing debt. These items are not defined under International Financial Reporting Standards (“IFRS”). Presenting these items from period to period provides management and investors with the ability to evaluate earnings and cash flow trends more readily in comparison with prior periods’ results. Refer to the Non-IFRS Measures section of the MD&A for further discussion of these items, including, where applicable, reconciliations to measures calculated in accordance with IFRS.

(2) Includes production from US Wind and Solar and excludes Canadian and Australian gas-fired generation. Production is not a key revenue driver for gas-fired facilities as most of their revenues are capacity based.

(3) Includes DRIP payments.

 

About TransAlta Renewables Inc.

TransAlta Renewables is among the largest of any publicly traded renewable independent power producers (“IPP”) in Canada. Our asset platform and economic interests are diversified in terms of geography, generation and counterparties and consist of interests in 23 wind facilities, 13 hydroelectric facilities, seven natural gas generation facilities, one solar facility, one natural gas pipeline and one battery storage facility, representing an ownership interest of 2,537 megawatts of owned generating capacity, located in the provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario, Québec, New Brunswick, the States of Wyoming, Massachusetts, Minnesota and the State of Western Australia. Our objectives are to (i) provide stable, consistent returns for investors through the ownership of, and investment in, highly contracted renewable and natural gas power generation and other infrastructure assets that provide stable cash flow primarily through long-term contracts with strong counterparties; (ii) pursue and capitalize on strategic growth opportunities in the renewable and natural gas power generation and other infrastructure sectors; (iii) maintain diversity in terms of geography, generation and counterparties; and (iv) pay out 80 to 85 per cent of cash available for distribution to the shareholders of the Company on an annual basis.

 

Cautionary Statement Regarding Forward Looking Information

This news release contains forward looking statements, including statements regarding the business and anticipated financial performance of the Company that are based on the Company’s current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions in light of its experience and its perception of historical trends. In some cases, forward-looking statements can be identified by terminology such as “plans”, “expects”, “proposed”, “will”, “anticipates”, “develop”, “continue”, and similar expressions suggesting future events or future performance. In particular, this news release contains forward-looking statements, pertaining to, without limitation, the following: our strategy and growth plans; ability to provide stable, consistent returns for investors through the ownership of, and investment in, highly contracted renewable and natural gas power generation and other infrastructure assets; the Company’s financial targets for 2021, including Comparable EBITDA, AFFO and CAFD, and renewable energy production; closing the acquisition of the economic interests in the Ada cogeneration facility and Skookumchuck wind facility; use of remaining proceeds from the TEC note offering; the timing of Windrise achieving commercial operation; and the expected benefits to be derived therefrom; developing emission reduction initiatives in Western Australia; maintaining diversity in terms of geography, generation and counterparties; and paying out 80 to 85 per cent of cash available for distribution to the shareholders of the Company on an annual basis.

 

The forward-looking statements contained in this news release are based on current expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions, having regard to the Corporation’s experience and its perception of historical trends, and includes, but is not limited to, expectations, estimates, projections and assumptions relating to: impacts of COVID-19 not becoming significantly more onerous; foreign exchange rates; global economic growth; electricity load growth; interest rates; sufficiency of our budgeted capital expenditures in carrying out our business plan; applicable laws, regulations and government policies; the availability and cost of labour, services and infrastructure; and the satisfaction by third parties of their obligations, including under power purchase agreements. These statements are subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that could cause actual plans, actions and results to differ materially from current expectations including, but not limited to: competitive factors in the renewable power industry; operational breakdowns, failures, or other disruptions; changes in economic and market conditions; continued access to debt, tax equity, and capital markets; changes in tax, environmental, and other laws and regulations; adverse weather impacts; and other risks and uncertainties discussed in the Company’s materials filed with the Canadian securities regulatory authorities from time to time and as also set forth in the Company’s MD&A and Annual Information Form for the year ended December 31, 2020. Readers are cautioned not to place undue reliance on these forward-looking statements, which reflect the Company’s expectations only as of the date of this news release. The purpose of the financial outlooks contained in this news release are to give the reader information about management’s current expectations and plans and readers are cautioned that such information may not be appropriate for other purposes and is given as of the date of this news release. The Company disclaims any intention or obligation to update or revise these forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information, future events or otherwise, except as required by law.

 

Note: All financial figures are in Canadian dollars unless noted otherwise.

For more information:

Investor Inquiries:

Media Inquiries:

Phone: 1-800-387-3598 in Canada and U.S.

Phone: Toll-free media number: 1-855-255-9184

Email: investor_relations@transalta.com

Email: ta_media_relations@transalta.com

Our Investor Relations team is here to answer any questions you have about investing in our company.