Sempra Energy (SRE), California’s third-largest utility, has one of the biggest customer bases of any utility in the country. Created through the 1998 merger of San Diego Gas and Electric and Southern California Gas, it provides natural gas to more than 20 million customers in Southern California. Sempra Energy has one of the most diversified natural gas operations in the country. Its units outside California own and operate merchant power plants, operate liquefied natural gas plants, and manage gas pipelines domestically and in Latin America.
The growing use of natural gas in the United States puts Sempra in a sweet spot, as does the fact that Sempra plans to increase its rate base for its regulated utilities by 60 percent during the next four years.
Sempra is diving into the alternative energy arena as well. The U.S. Energy Department recently provided a $359.1 million conditional loan guarantee for Sempra to build a solar power plant in Arizona.
The company is working on the 150-megawatt Mesquite Solar 1 plant in Maricopa County, about 45 miles west of Phoenix. The project is planned for completion in 2013 and will produce electricity for 56,000 homes. Mesquite is the first phase of a planned 700-megawatt development.
Sempra also is working on a $1.9 billion transmission line, Sunrise Powerlink, to connect San Diego to renewable energy havens such as California's Imperial Valley and wind sites in Mexico. The government authorizes high rates of return on these projects.
Sempra reported profit more than doubled to $258 million in the first quarter from $106 million a year earlier. Revenue rose 4 percent to $2.53 billion.
"After refocusing our strategy on regulated utilities and contracted energy infrastructure, we are pleased that first-quarter results were strong across all of our business segments," Sempra CEO Donald Felsinger said in a statement.
JPMorgan Chase analysts have a share price target of $58 for Sempra.
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