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Section 1: 10-K (FORM 10-K)

ottr20181231_10k.htm
 

 

Table of Contents

UNITED STATES SECURITIES AND EXCHANGE COMMISSION

Washington, D.C. 20549

 

FORM 10-K

(Mark One)

(X)

Annual Report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

For the fiscal year ended December 31, 2018

 

(   )

Transition Report pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934

For the transition period from _______to_______

 

Commission File Number 0-53713

 

OTTER TAIL CORPORATION

(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)

               

MINNESOTA 27-0383995
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization) (I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)
   
215 SOUTH CASCADE STREET, BOX 496, FERGUS FALLS, MINNESOTA 56538-0496
(Address of principal executive offices) (Zip Code)

             

Registrant's telephone number, including area code: 866-410-8780

 

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:

     

  Title of each class Name of each exchange on which registered
  COMMON SHARES, par value $5.00 per share  The Nasdaq Stock Market LLC

                                               

Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(g) of the Act: None

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is a well-known seasoned issuer, as defined in Rule 405 of the Securities Act.   Yes  ☑     No  ☐

 

Indicate by check mark if the registrant is not required to file reports pursuant to Section 13 or Section 15(d) of the Act. Yes ☐    No ☑

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant (1) has filed all reports required to be filed by Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to file such reports), and (2) has been subject to such filing requirements for the past 90 days. Yes  ☑     No  ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically every Interactive Data File required to be submitted pursuant to Rule 405 of Regulation S-T during the preceding 12 months (or for such shorter period that the registrant was required to submit such files). Yes  ☑     No  ☐

 

Indicate by check mark if disclosure of delinquent filers pursuant to Item 405 of Regulation S-K is not contained herein and will not be contained, to the best of the registrant's knowledge, in definitive proxy or information statements incorporated by reference in Part III of this Form 10-K or any amendment to this Form 10-K. ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer, smaller reporting company, or an emerging growth company. See the definitions of “large accelerated filer,” “accelerated filer,” “smaller reporting company” and “emerging growth company” in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act. (Check one):

 

  Large Accelerated Filer ☑ Accelerated Filer ☐  
  Non-Accelerated Filer ☐  Smaller Reporting Company ☐  Emerging Growth Company ☐

            

If an emerging growth company, indicate by checkmark if the registrant has elected not to use the extended transition period for complying with any new or revised financial accounting standards provided pursuant to Section 13(a) of the Exchange Act ☐

 

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a shell company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Exchange Act).   Yes ☐ No ☑

 

The aggregate market value of common stock held by non-affiliates, computed by reference to the last sales price on June 29, 2018 was $1,810,041,170.

 

Indicate the number of shares outstanding of each of the registrant's classes of common stock, as of the latest practicable date: 39,729,708 Common Shares ($5 par value) as of February 15, 2019.

 

Documents Incorporated by Reference:

Proxy Statement for the 2019 Annual Meeting-Portions incorporated by reference into Part III

 

 

 

 

OTTER TAIL CORPORATION

FORM 10-K TABLE OF CONTENTS

 

  Description Page
 

Definitions

2

PART I

   

ITEM 1.

Business

4

ITEM 1A.

Risk Factors

28

ITEM 1B.

Unresolved Staff Comments

36

ITEM 2.

Properties

36

ITEM 3.

Legal Proceedings

36

ITEM 3A.

Executive Officers of the Registrant (as of February 22, 2019) 

37

ITEM 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

37

     

PART II

   

ITEM 5.

Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters And Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

38

ITEM 6.

Selected Financial Data

39

ITEM 7.

Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

39

ITEM 7A.

Quantitative and Qualitative Disclosures About Market Risk

60

ITEM 8.

Financial Statements and Supplementary Data:

 
 

Report of Independent Registered Public Accounting Firm

61

 

Consolidated Balance Sheets

62

 

Consolidated Statements of Income

64

 

Consolidated Statements of Comprehensive Income

65

 

Consolidated Statements of Common Shareholders’ Equity

66

 

Consolidated Statements of Cash Flows

67

 

Consolidated Statements of Capitalization

68

 

Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements

69

 

Supplementary Financial Information - Quarterly Information

117

ITEM 9.

Changes in and Disagreements with Accountants on Accounting and Financial Disclosure

118

ITEM 9A.

Controls and Procedures

118

ITEM 9B.

Other Information

118

     

PART III

   

ITEM 10.

Directors, Executive Officers and Corporate Governance

119

ITEM 11.

Executive Compensation

119

ITEM 12.

Security Ownership of Certain Beneficial Owners and Management and Related Stockholder Matters

120

ITEM 13.

Certain Relationships and Related Transactions, and Director Independence

120

ITEM 14.

Principal Accountant Fees and Services

120

     

PART IV

   

ITEM 15.

Exhibits and Financial Statement Schedules

121

ITEM 16.

Form 10-K Summary

129

     

Signatures

 

130

 

1

 

 

Definitions

 

The following abbreviations or acronyms are used in the text. References in this report to “the Company”, “we”, “us” and “our” are to Otter Tail Corporation.

 

2018 Notes

February 2018 issuance of $100 million in privately placed 4.07% Senior Unsecured Notes due February 7, 2048

ACE Affodable Clean Energy

ADP

Advance Determination of Prudence
AFUDC  Allowance for Funds Used During Construction
ALJ   Administrative Law Judge
AQCS Air Quality Control System
ARO  Accumulated Asset Retirement Obligation
ASC  Accounting Standards Codification
ASC 606   ASC Topic 606 – Revenue from Contracts with Customers
ASC 715 ASC Topic 715 – Compensation—Retirement Benefits
ASC 718 ASC Topic 718 – Compensation—Stock Compensation
ASC 820 ASC Topic 820 – Fair Value Measurement
ASC 980  ASC Topic 980 – Regulated Operations
ASM   Ancillary Services Market
ASU Accounting Standards Update
BTD BTD Manufacturing, Inc.
CAA Clean Air Act
CCMC Coyote Creek Mining Company, L.L.C.
CCR  Coal Combustion Residuals
CIP Conservation Improvement Program
CO2 carbon dioxide
CON Certificate of Need
CPP  Clean Power Plan
CSAPR  Cross-State Air Pollution Rule
CWIP  Construction Work in Progress
D.C. Circuit   United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia
DRR Data Requirement Rule
ECR Environmental Cost Recovery
EDF  EDF Renewable Development, Inc.
EEI  Edison Electric Institute
EEP   Energy Efficiency Plan
EPA Environmental Protection Agency
ESSRP   Executive Survivor and Supplemental Retirement Plan
Exchange Act  The Securities Exchange Act of 1934
FASB Financial Accounting Standards Board
FCA  Fuel Clause Adjustment
FERC  Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
GAAP Generally Accepted Accounting Principles in the United States
GHG  Greenhouse Gas
Impulse  Impulse Manufacturing, Inc.
IRP   Integrated Resource Plan
JPMS J.P. Morgan Securities LLC
kV  kiloVolt
kW kiloWatt
kwh  kilowatt-hour
LSA Lignite Sales Agreement
MATS Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
MISO  Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc.
MISO Tariff  MISO Open Access Transmission, Energy and Operating Reserve Markets Tariff
MNCIP Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program
MNDOC  Minnesota Department of Commerce
MPCA  Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
MPU Act  The Minnesota Public Utilities Act
MPUC  Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
MRO   Midwest Reliability Organization

 

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MVP Multi-Value Project
MW  megawatts
NAAQS National Ambient Air Quality Standards
NAEMA North American Energy Marketers Association
NDPSC North Dakota Public Service Commission
NDRRA  North Dakota Renewable Resource Adjustment
NERC   North American Electric Reliability Corporation
NETOs   New England Transmission Owners
NPDES  National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
Northern Pipe Northern Pipe Products, Inc.
NOx  nitrogen oxide
NSPS  New Source Performance Standards
OTP   Otter Tail Power Company
PACE  Partnership in Assisting Community Expansion
ppb parts per billion
PSD  Prevention of Significant Deterioration
PTCs  Production tax credits
PVC   Polyvinyl chloride
ROE  Return on equity
RTO Adder Incentive of additional 50-basis points for Regional Transmission Organization participation
SDPUC South Dakota Public Utilities Commission
SEC Securities and Exchange Commission
SF6 sulfur hexaflouride
SO2 sulfur dioxide
SPP Southwest Power Pool
SRECs Solar renewable energy credits
Standex  Standex International Corporation
T.O. Plastics   T.O. Plastics, Inc.
TCR  Transmission Cost Recovery
TCJA   2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
Varistar  Varistar Corporation
VIE  Variable Interest Entity
Vinyltech Vinyltech Corporation
WIIN  Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation

 

3

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PART I

 

Item 1.     BUSINESS

 

(a) General Development of Business

 

Otter Tail Power Company was incorporated in 1907 under the laws of the State of Minnesota. In 2001, the name was changed to “Otter Tail Corporation” to more accurately represent the broader scope of consolidated operations and the name Otter Tail Power Company (OTP) was retained for use by the electric utility. On July 1, 2009 Otter Tail Corporation completed a holding company reorganization whereby OTP, which had previously been operated as a division of Otter Tail Corporation, became a wholly owned subsidiary of the new parent holding company named Otter Tail Corporation (the Company). The new parent holding company was incorporated in June 2009 under the laws of the State of Minnesota in connection with the holding company reorganization. The Company’s executive offices are located at 215 South Cascade Street, P.O. Box 496, Fergus Falls, Minnesota 56538-0496 and 4150 19th Avenue South, Suite 101, P.O. Box 9156, Fargo, North Dakota 58106-9156. The Company’s telephone number is (866) 410-8780.

 

The Company makes available free of charge at its website (www.ottertail.com) its annual reports on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K, Forms 3, 4 and 5 filed on behalf of directors and executive officers and any amendments to these reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(a) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, as soon as reasonably practicable after such material is electronically filed with or furnished to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). These reports are also available on the SEC’s website (www.sec.gov). Information on the Company’s and the SEC’s websites is not deemed to be incorporated by reference into this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

Otter Tail Corporation and its subsidiaries conduct business primarily in the United States. The Company had approximately 2,321 full-time employees at December 31, 2018. The Company’s businesses have been classified in three segments to be consistent with its business strategy and the reporting and review process used by the Company’s chief operating decision maker. The three segments are Electric, Manufacturing and Plastics.

 

The chart below indicates the companies included in each of the Company’s reporting segments.

 

 

 

Electric includes the production, transmission, distribution and sale of electric energy in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota by OTP. In addition, OTP is a participant in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) markets. OTP’s operations have been the Company’s primary business since 1907.

 

 

Manufacturing consists of businesses in the following manufacturing activities: contract machining, metal parts stamping, fabrication and painting, and production of plastic thermoformed horticultural containers, life science and industrial packaging, and material handling components. These businesses have manufacturing facilities in Georgia, Illinois and Minnesota and sell products primarily in the United States.

 

 

Plastics consists of businesses producing polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe at plants in North Dakota and Arizona. The PVC pipe is sold primarily in the upper Midwest and Southwest regions of the United States.

 

OTP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company. The Company’s manufacturing and plastic pipe businesses are owned by its wholly owned subsidiary, Varistar Corporation (Varistar). The Company’s corporate operating costs include items such as corporate staff and overhead costs, the results of the Company’s captive insurance company and other items excluded from the measurement of operating segment performance that are not allocated to its subsidiary companies. Corporate assets consist primarily of cash, prepaid expenses, investments and fixed assets. Corporate is not an operating segment. Rather, it is added to operating segment totals to reconcile to totals on the Company’s consolidated financial statements.

 

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The Company maintains a moderate risk profile by investing in rate base growth opportunities in its Electric segment and organic growth opportunities in its manufacturing platform, which includes its Manufacturing and Plastics segments. This strategy and risk profile is designed to provide a more predictable earnings stream, maintain the Company’s credit quality and preserve its ability to fund the dividend. The Company’s goal is to deliver annual growth in earnings per share between five to seven percent over the next several years, using 2018 diluted earnings per share as the base for measurement. The growth is expected to come from the substantial increase in the Company’s regulated utility rate base and from planned increased earnings from existing capacity in place at the Company’s manufacturing and plastic pipe businesses. The Company will continue to review its business portfolio to see where additional opportunities exist to improve its risk profile, improve credit metrics and generate additional sources of cash to support the growth opportunities in its electric utility. The Company will also evaluate opportunities to allocate capital to potential acquisitions in its Manufacturing and Plastics segments. Over time, the Company expects the electric utility business will provide approximately 75% to 85% of its overall earnings. The Company expects its manufacturing and plastic pipe businesses will provide 15% to 25% of its earnings and continue to be a fundamental part of its strategy. The actual mix of earnings in 2018 was 66% from the electric utility and 34% from the manufacturing and plastic pipe businesses, including unallocated corporate costs.

 

The Company maintains criteria in evaluating whether its operating companies are a strategic fit. The operating company should:

 

 

Maintain a threshold level of net earnings and a return on invested capital in excess of the Company’s weighted average cost of capital.

 

 

Have a strategic differentiation from competitors and a sustainable cost advantage.

 

 

Operate within a stable and growing industry and be able to quickly adapt to changing economic cycles.

 

 

Have a strong management team committed to operational and commercial excellence.

 

For a discussion of the Company's results of operations, see "Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations," on pages 39 through 60 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

(b) Financial Information about Industry Segments

 

The Company is engaged in businesses classified into three segments: Electric, Manufacturing and Plastics. Financial information about the Company's segments and geographic areas is included in note 2 of "Notes to Consolidated Financial Statements" on pages 78 through 80 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K.

 

(c) Narrative Description of Business

 

ELECTRIC

 

General

 

Electric includes OTP which is headquartered in Fergus Falls, Minnesota, and provides electricity to more than 130,000 customers in a service area encompassing 70,000 square miles of western Minnesota, eastern North Dakota and northeastern South Dakota. The Company derived 49%, 51% and 53% of its consolidated operating revenues and 68%, 72% and 81% of its consolidated operating income from its Electric segment for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively.

 

The breakdown of retail electric revenues by state is as follows:

 

State

 

2018

   

2017

 

Minnesota

    52.6 %     52.8 %

North Dakota

    38.6       38.5  

South Dakota

    8.8       8.7  

Total

    100.0 %     100.0 %

 

The territory served by OTP is predominantly agricultural. The aggregate population of OTP’s retail electric service area is approximately 230,000. In this service area of 422 communities and adjacent rural areas and farms, approximately 126,000 people live in communities having a population of more than 1,000, according to the 2010 census. The only communities served which have a population in excess of 10,000 are Jamestown, North Dakota (15,427); Bemidji, Minnesota (13,431); and Fergus Falls, Minnesota (13,138). As of December 31, 2018, OTP served 132,448 customers. Although there are relatively few large customers, sales to commercial and industrial customers are significant. One customer accounted for 11% of 2018 Electric segment revenue.

 

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The following table provides a breakdown of electric revenues by customer category. All other sources include gross wholesale sales from utility generation and sales to municipalities.

 

Customer Category

 

2018

   

2017

 

Commercial

    37.0 %     35.2 %

Residential

    32.5       31.1  

Industrial

    30.0       31.8  

All Other Sources

    0.5       1.9  

Total

    100.0 %     100.0 %

 

Capacity and Demand

 

As of December 31, 2018, OTP’s owned net-plant dependable kilowatt (kW) capacity was:

 

Baseload Plants

       

Big Stone Plant

 

256,400

kW

Coyote Station

    151,100  

Hoot Lake Plant

    141,000  

Total Baseload Net Plant

 

548,500

kW

Combustion Turbine and Small Diesel Units

 

106,200

kW

Hydroelectric Facilities

 

2,900

kW

Owned Wind Facilities (rated at nameplate)

       

Luverne Wind Farm (33 turbines)

 

49,500

kW

Ashtabula Wind Center (32 turbines)

    48,000  

Langdon Wind Center (27 turbines)

    40,500  

Total Owned Wind Facilities

 

138,000

kW

 

The baseload net plant capacity for Big Stone Plant and Coyote Station constitutes OTP’s ownership percentages of 53.9% and 35%, respectively. OTP owns 100% of the Hoot Lake Plant. During 2018, about 63% of OTP’s retail kilowatt-hour (kwh) sales were supplied from OTP generating plants with the balance supplied by purchased power.

 

In addition to the owned facilities described above, OTP had the following purchased power agreements in place on December 31, 2018:

 

Purchased Wind Power Agreements (rated at nameplate and greater than 2,000 kW)

 

Ashtabula Wind III

 

62,400

kW

Edgeley

    21,000  

Langdon

    19,500  

Total Purchased Wind

 

102,900

kW

Purchase of Capacity (in excess of 1 year and 500 kW)

       

Great River Energy1

 

80,000

kW

180,000 kW through May 2019 and 50,000 kW June 2019 – May 2021.

 

OTP has a direct control load management system which provides some flexibility to OTP to effect reductions of peak load. OTP also offers rates to customers which encourage off-peak usage.

 

OTP’s capacity requirement is based on MISO Module E requirements. OTP is required to have sufficient Zonal Resource Credits to meet its monthly weather-normalized forecast demand, plus a reserve obligation. OTP met its MISO obligation for the 2018-2019 MISO planning year. OTP generating capacity combined with additional capacity under purchased power agreements (as described above) and load management control capabilities is expected to meet 2019 system demand and MISO reserve requirements.

 

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Fuel Supply

 

Coal is the principal fuel burned at the Big Stone, Coyote and Hoot Lake generating plants. Coyote Station, a mine-mouth facility, burns North Dakota lignite coal. Hoot Lake Plant and Big Stone Plant burn western subbituminous coal transported by rail.

 

The following table shows the sources of energy used to generate OTP’s net output of electricity for 2018 and 2017:

 

   

2018

   

2017

 

Sources

 

Net kwhs

Generated

(Thousands)

   

% of Total

kwhs

Generated

   

Net kwhs

Generated

(Thousands)

   

% of Total

kwhs

Generated

 

Subbituminous Coal

    1,891,394       53.5 %     1,440,017       49.1 %

Lignite Coal

    1,080,639       30.5       920,451       31.4  

Wind and Hydro

    494,394       14.0       534,474       18.2  

Natural Gas and Oil

    70,015       2.0       36,703       1.3  

Total

    3,536,442       100.0 %     2,931,645       100.0 %

 

OTP has the following primary coal supply agreements:

 

Plant

Coal Supplier

Type of Coal

Expiration Date

Big Stone Plant

Contura Coal Sales, LLC

Wyoming subbituminous

December 31, 2019

Big Stone Plant

Peabody COALSALES, LLC

Wyoming subbituminous

December 31, 2020

Coyote Station

Coyote Creek Mining Company, L.L.C.

North Dakota lignite

December 31, 2040

Hoot Lake Plant

Cloud Peak Energy Resources LLC

Montana subbituminous

December 31, 2023

 

OTP and its Big Stone Plant co-owners entered into the current coal purchase agreement with Peabody COALSALES, LLC in May 2018 for the purchase of subbituminous coal for Big Stone Plant’s coal requirements through December 31, 2020. There is no fixed minimum purchase requirement under this agreement but all of Big Stone Plant’s coal requirements for the period covered must be purchased under this agreement, except for the portion to be purchased in 2019 under the agreement with Contura Coal Sales, LLC.

 

In October 2012 OTP and its Coyote Station co-owners entered into a lignite sales agreement (LSA) with Coyote Creek Mining Company, L.L.C. (CCMC), a subsidiary of The North American Coal Corporation, for the purchase of Coyote Station’s coal requirements for the period May 2016 through December 2040. The price per ton being paid by the Coyote Station owners under the LSA reflects the cost of production, along with an agreed profit and capital charge. The LSA provides for the Coyote Station owners to purchase the membership interests in CCMC in the event of certain early termination events and also at the end of the term of the LSA.

 

OTP’s coal supply requirements for Hoot Lake Plant are secured under contract through December 2023. There are no fixed minimum purchase requirements under this agreement.

 

Railroad transportation services to the Big Stone Plant and Hoot Lake Plant are provided under a common carrier rate by the BNSF Railway. The common carrier rate is subject to a mileage-based fuel surcharge. The basis for the fuel surcharge is the U.S. average price of retail on-highway diesel fuel. No coal transportation agreement is needed for Coyote Station as a mine-mouth facility.

 

The average cost of fuel consumed (including handling charges to the plant sites) per million British Thermal Units for the years 2018, 2017, and 2016 was $1.977, $2.224 and $2.146, respectively.

 

Transmission Revenues

 

OTP earns significant revenues from the transmission of electricity for others over the transmission assets it separately owns, or jointly owns with other transmission service providers, under rate tariffs established by MISO and approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).

 

General Regulation

 

OTP is subject to regulation of rates and other matters in each of the three states in which it operates and by the federal government for certain interstate operations.

 

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Table of Contents

 

A breakdown of electric rate regulation by each jurisdiction follows:

 

     

2018

   

2017

 

Rates

Regulation

 

% of Electric

Revenues

   

% of kwh

Sales

   

% of Electric

Revenues

   

% of kwh

Sales

 

MN Retail Sales

MN Public Utilities Commission

    46.2 %     54.1 %     46.4 %     54.0 %

ND Retail Sales

ND Public Service Commission

    33.9       36.8       33.9       37.1  

SD Retail Sales

SD Public Utilities Commission

    7.7       9.1       7.7       8.9  

Transmission & Wholesale

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission

    12.2       --       12.0       --  

Total

    100.0 %     100.0 %     100.0 %     100.0 %

 

OTP operates under approved retail electric tariffs in all three states it serves. OTP has an obligation to serve any customer requesting service within its assigned service territory. The pattern of electric usage can vary dramatically during a 24-hour period and from season to season. OTP’s tariffs are designed to recover the costs of providing electric service. To the extent peak usage can be reduced or shifted to periods of lower usage, the cost to serve all customers is reduced. In order to shift usage from peak times, OTP has approved tariffs in all three states for residential demand control, general service time of use and time of day, real-time pricing, and controlled and interruptible service. Each of these specialized rates is designed to improve efficient use of OTP resources, while giving customers more control over their electric bill.

 

With a few minor exceptions, OTP’s electric retail rate schedules currently provide for adjustments in rates based on the cost of fuel delivered to OTP’s generating plants, as well as for adjustments based on the cost of electric energy purchased by OTP. OTP also credits certain margins from wholesale sales to the fuel and purchased power adjustment. The adjustments for fuel and purchased power costs are presently based on a two-month moving average in Minnesota and by the FERC, a three-month moving average in South Dakota and a four-month moving average in North Dakota. These adjustments are applied to the next billing period after becoming applicable. These adjustments also include an over or under recovery mechanism, which is calculated on an annual basis in Minnesota and on a monthly basis in North Dakota and South Dakota. Minnesota has made changes to its fuel and purchased power cost recovery mechanism that will take effect January 1, 2020 (see discussion under Fuel and Purchased Power Costs Recovery below).

 

2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)

 

The TCJA, passed in December 2017, reduced the federal income tax rate from 35% to 21% effective January 1, 2018 for the Company. At the time of passage, all OTP rates had been developed using a 35% tax rate. In 2018, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC), the North Dakota Public Service Commission (NDPSC), the South Dakota Public Utilities Commission (SDPUC) and the FERC each initiated dockets or proceedings to begin working with utilities to assess the impact of the lower income tax rate on electric rates, and to develop regulatory strategies to incorporate the tax change into future rates, if warranted.

 

The MPUC required regulated utilities providing service in Minnesota to make filings by February 15, 2018. On December 5, 2018 the MPUC issued its final order related to the TCJA docket, which directed OTP to return to ratepayers, in a one-time refund, the TCJA-related savings accrued prior to the refund effective date. The order also directed OTP to use these savings to reduce customers’ base rates prospectively—allocating the savings to customers in proportion to the size of each customer’s bill, or to each customer class in proportion to the class’s size. OTP expects the rate change and refund to occur in the second quarter of 2019, pending MPUC approval of OTP’s January 3, 2019 compliance filing. As described below, OTP’s current general rate cases in North Dakota and South Dakota reflect the impact of the TCJA.

 

OTP has accrued refund liabilities for the time period when revenues were collected under rates set to recover higher levels of federal income taxes than OTP incurs under the lower federal tax rates in the TCJA. As of December 31, 2018, accrued refund liabilities related to the tax rate reduction were $8.4 million in Minnesota, $0.8 million in North Dakota for amounts collected reflecting the higher tax rate under interim rates in effect in January and February 2018, $1.0 million in South Dakota billed prior to October 18, 2018, and $0.2 million for FERC jurisdictional rates.

 

On March 15, 2018, the FERC granted the request for waiver from a group of MISO transmission operators (including OTP) to revise inputs to their projected net revenue requirements for the 2018 rate year to reflect TCJA impacts.

 

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Electric Segment Major Capital Expenditure Projects

 

Below are descriptions of OTP’s major capital expenditure projects that have had, or will have, a significant impact on OTP’s revenue requirements, rates and alternative revenue recovery mechanisms, followed by summaries of the material regulations of each jurisdiction applicable to OTP’s electric operations, as well as any specific electric rate proceedings during the last three years with the MPUC, the NDPSC, the SDPUC and the FERC.

 

Merricourt Project—On November 16, 2016 OTP entered into an Asset Purchase Agreement (the Purchase Agreement) with EDF Renewable Development, Inc. and certain of its affiliated companies (EDF) to purchase and assume the development assets and certain specified liabilities associated with a 150-megawatt (MW) wind farm in southeastern North Dakota (the Merricourt Project) for a purchase price of approximately $34.7 million, subject to adjustments for interconnection costs. The Purchase Agreement will close on satisfaction of various closing conditions (including regulatory approvals). Also on November 16, 2016, OTP entered into a Turnkey Engineering, Procurement and Construction Services Agreement with EDF pursuant to which EDF will develop, design, procure, construct, interconnect, test and commission the wind farm with a targeted completion date in 2020 for consideration of approximately $200.5 million, subject to certain adjustments, payable following the closing of the Purchase Agreement in installments in connection with certain project construction milestones. Depending on the timing of MISO interconnection approval, construction of the Merricourt Project is currently anticipated to begin in mid-2019. The agreements contain customary representations, warranties, covenants and indemnities for this type of transaction. As of December 31, 2018, OTP had capitalized approximately $4.9 million in development costs associated with the Merricourt Project. A final order for an Advance Determination of Prudence (ADP), subject to qualifications and compliance obligations, and a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity were issued by the NDPSC on November 3, 2017. On October 26, 2017 the MPUC approved the facility under the Renewable Energy Standard making the Merricourt Project eligible for cost recovery under the Minnesota Renewable Resource Recovery rider, subject to qualifications and reporting obligations.

 

Astoria Station—OTP is moving forward with plans for the development, construction and ownership of this 250-MW simple-cycle natural gas-fired combustion turbine generation facility near Astoria, South Dakota as part of its plan to reliably meet customers’ electric needs, replace expiring capacity purchase agreements and prepare for the planned retirement of its Hoot Lake Plant in 2021. OTP expects the project will cost approximately $158 million. As of December 31, 2018, OTP had capitalized approximately $8.3 million in development costs associated with Astoria Station. On August 3, 2018 the SDPUC issued an order granting a site permit for Astoria Station. A final order granting ADP for Astoria Station was issued by the NDPSC on November 3, 2017, subject to certain qualifications and compliance obligations. The interconnection agreement for Astoria Station was executed by MISO in December 2018 and accepted by the FERC in January 2019. In a September 26, 2018 hearing the NDPSC approved an overall annual revenue increase for OTP and established a Generation Cost Recovery rider for future recovery of costs incurred for Astoria Station.

 

Big Stone South–Ellendale Multi-Value Transmission Project (MVP)—This is a 345 kiloVolt (kV) transmission line that extends 163 miles between a substation near Big Stone City, South Dakota and a substation near Ellendale, North Dakota. OTP jointly developed this project with Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., and the parties will have equal ownership interest in the transmission line portion of the project. The MISO approved this project as an MVP under the MISO Open Access Transmission, Energy and Operating Reserve Markets Tariff (MISO Tariff) in December 2011. MVPs are designed to enable the MISO region to comply with energy policy mandates and to address reliability and economic issues affecting multiple areas within the MISO region. The cost allocation is designed to ensure the costs of transmission projects with regional benefits are properly assigned to those who benefit. Construction began on this line in the second quarter of 2016 and the line was energized on February 6, 2019. OTP’s capitalized costs on this project as of December 31, 2018 were approximately $106 million, which includes assets that are 100% owned by OTP.

 

Big Stone South–Brookings 345-kV MVP—OTP invested approximately $73 million (including assets that are 100% owned by OTP) and has a 50.0% ownership interest in the jointly-owned assets of this 70-mile transmission line energized in 2017.

 

Recovery of OTP’s major transmission investments is through the MISO Tariff and, currently, Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota base rates and Transmission Cost Recovery (TCR) Riders.

 

Minnesota

 

Under the Minnesota Public Utilities Act (the MPU Act), OTP is subject to the jurisdiction of the MPUC with respect to rates, issuance of securities, depreciation rates, public utility services, construction of major utility facilities, establishment of exclusive assigned service areas, contracts and arrangements with subsidiaries and other affiliated interests, and other matters. The MPUC has the authority to assess the need for large energy facilities and to issue or deny certificates of need, after public hearings, within one year of an application to construct such a facility.

 

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Pursuant to the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act, the MPUC has authority to select or designate sites in Minnesota for new electric power generating plants (50,000 kW or more) and routes for transmission lines (100 kV or more) in an orderly manner compatible with environmental preservation and the efficient use of resources, and to certify such sites and routes as to environmental compatibility after an environmental impact study has been conducted by the Minnesota Department of Commerce (MNDOC) and the Office of Administrative Hearings has conducted contested case hearings.

 

The Minnesota Division of Energy Resources, part of the MNDOC, is responsible for investigating all matters subject to the jurisdiction of the MNDOC or the MPUC, and for the enforcement of MPUC orders. Among other things, the MNDOC is authorized to collect and analyze data on energy including the consumption of energy, develop recommendations as to energy policies for the governor and the legislature of Minnesota and evaluate policies governing the establishment of rates and prices for energy as related to energy conservation. The MNDOC also has the power, in the event of energy shortage or for a long-term basis, to prepare and adopt regulations to conserve and allocate energy.

 

General Rates—The MPUC rendered its final decision in OTP’s 2016 general rate case in March 2017 and issued its written order on May 1, 2017. Pursuant to the order, OTP’s allowed rate of return on rate base decreased from 8.61% to 7.5056% and its allowed rate of return on equity (ROE) decreased from 10.74% to 9.41%. The MPUC denied OTP’s request for reconsideration of certain of the MPUC’s rulings in the rate case.

 

The MPUC’s order also included: (1) the determination that all costs (including FERC allocated costs and revenues) of the Big Stone South–Brookings and Big Stone South–Ellendale MVPs will be included in the Minnesota TCR rider and jurisdictionally allocated to OTP’s Minnesota customers (see discussion under Minnesota Transmission Cost Recovery Rider below), and (2) approval of OTP’s proposal to transition rate base, expenses and revenues from Environmental Cost Recovery (ECR) and TCR riders to base rate recovery, which occurred when final rates were implemented on November 1, 2017. Certain MISO expenses and revenues remain in the TCR rider to allow for the ongoing refund or recovery of these variable revenues and costs.

 

OTP accrued interim and rider rate refunds until final rates became effective. The final interim rate refund, including interest, of $9.0 million was applied as a credit to Minnesota customers’ electric bills beginning in November 2017. In addition to the interim rate refund, OTP refunded the difference between (1) amounts collected under its Minnesota ECR and TCR riders based on the ROE approved in its most recent rider update and (2) amounts that would have been collected based on the lower 9.41% ROE approved in its 2016 general rate case going back to April 16, 2016, the date interim rates were implemented. The revenues collected under the Minnesota ECR and TCR riders subject to refund due to the lower ROE rate and other adjustments were $0.9 million and $1.4 million, respectively. These amounts were refunded to Minnesota customers over a 12-month period beginning in November 2017 through reductions in the Minnesota ECR and TCR rider rates. The TCR rider rate is provisional and subject to revision under a separate docket.

 

Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)—Minnesota law requires utilities to submit to the MPUC for approval a 15-year advance IRP. A resource plan is a set of resource options a utility could use to meet the service needs of its customers over a forecast period, including an explanation of the utility’s supply and demand circumstances, and the extent to which each resource option would be used to meet those service needs. The MPUC’s findings of fact and conclusions regarding resource plans shall be considered prima facie evidence, subject to rebuttal, in Certificate of Need (CON) hearings, rate reviews and other proceedings. Typically, resource plans are submitted every two years.

 

On April 26, 2017 the MPUC issued an order approving OTP’s 2017-2031 IRP filing with modifications and setting requirements for the next resource plan. The approved plan with modifications included the following items:

 

 

The addition of 200 MW of wind resources in the 2018 to 2020 timeframe.

 

The addition of 30 MW of solar resources by 2020 to comply with Minnesota's Solar Energy Standard.

 

The addition of up to 250 MW of peaking capacity in 2021.

 

Average annual energy savings of 46.8 gigawatt-hours (1.6% of retail sales).

 

Modification of OTP’s IRP to include an additional 100 MW to 200 MW of wind in the 2022 to 2023 timeframe.

 

On November 29, 2018 the MPUC extended the deadline for OTP’s next IRP filing from June 3, 2019 to June 1, 2020. The MPUC order cited two key environmental regulations for which the impacts on OTP facilities are not yet ascertainable: the federal Regional Haze Rule promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in 1999 and the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule proposed by the EPA in August 2018.

 

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Fuel and Purchased Power Costs Recovery—The MPUC has issued an order authorizing the implementation of a new fuel clause adjustment mechanism to be implemented January 1, 2020. Prior to implementation, OTP will be required to submit forecasted monthly fuel cost rates for the twelve-month period beginning January 1, 2020. On approval by the MPUC, those rates will be published in advance of each year to give customers notice of the next year’s monthly fuel rates, and those will be the rates OTP will charge per kwh to cover fuel costs. OTP will track its actual costs throughout the year and then file an annual report with the MPUC comparing the actual cost per kwh to the billed cost per kwh to determine if any over or under collection of costs occurred. OTP would refund any over-collections, or in the case of an under-collection, be required to show prudence of costs incurred over forecast before being authorized recovery. The refund of any over-collection or recovery of any under-collection would be handled through a true-up mechanism. OTP is working with other Minnesota utilities, the MNDOC and other stakeholders to address questions and further develop the mechanism prior to implementation.

 

On MPUC finalization of an order implementing the mechanism, OTP will be required to reserve revenues, accrue a liability and refund amounts of fuel and purchased power and related costs collected in excess of amounts for which it was granted recovery in its most recent rate case or annual fuel cost adjustment filing preceding the annual period of recovery. OTP will continue to accrue revenue and a regulatory asset for fuel and purchased power costs incurred in excess of amounts recovered under the adjustment mechanism unless and until recovery of those excess amounts are deemed not prudent and recovery is not granted through the true-up mechanism in a subsequent order by the MPUC. This mechanism could result in reductions in Electric segment operating income margins and could increase variability in consolidated net income in future periods if costs per kwh vary from forecasted costs per kwh and recovery of all or a portion of excess costs is denied by the MPUC.

 

Renewable Energy Standards, Conservation, Renewable Resource Riders—Minnesota law favors energy conservation and load-management measures over the addition of new generation resources. In addition, Minnesota law requires the use of renewable resources where new supplies are needed, unless the utility proves that a renewable energy facility is not in the public interest. Minnesota law requires the MPUC, to the extent practicable, to quantify the environmental costs associated with each method of electricity generation, and to use such monetized values in evaluating generation resources. The MPUC must disallow any nonrenewable rate base additions (whether within or outside of the state) or any related rate recovery and may not approve any nonrenewable energy facility in an IRP, unless the utility proves that a renewable energy facility is not in the public interest. The state has prioritized the acceptability of new generation with wind and solar ranked first, the highest ranking, and coal and nuclear ranked fifth, the lowest ranking. The MPUC’s currently applicable estimate of the range of costs of future carbon dioxide (CO2) regulation to be used in modeling analyses for resource plans is $5.00 to $25.00 per ton of CO2 commencing in 2025. The MPUC is required to annually update these estimates.

 

Minnesota has a renewable energy standard which requires OTP to generate or procure sufficient renewable generation such that the following percentages of total retail electric sales to Minnesota customers come from qualifying renewable sources: 17% by 2016; 20% by 2020 and 25% by 2025. In addition, Minnesota law requires 1.5% of total Minnesota electric sales by public utilities to be supplied by solar energy by 2020. For a public utility with between 50,000 and 200,000 retail electric customers, such as OTP, at least 10% of the 1.5% requirement must be met by solar energy generated by or procured from solar photovoltaic devices with a nameplate capacity of 40 kWs or less. If approved by the MPUC, individual customer subscriptions to an OTP-operated community solar garden program of 40 kWs or less could be applied toward the 10% requirement. OTP has purchased sufficient solar renewable energy credits (SRECs) to meet 100 percent of its 2020 obligation and approximately 70% of its 2021 obligation.

 

Under certain circumstances and after consideration of costs and reliability issues, the MPUC may modify or delay implementation of the standards. OTP has acquired enough renewable resources to comply with current requirements under Minnesota renewable energy standards. OTP is evaluating potential options for maintaining compliance and meeting the solar energy standard. Projected capital expenditures include $30 million for solar generation in 2022. OTP’s compliance with the Minnesota renewable energy standard will be measured through the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System.

 

Under the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, an automatic adjustment mechanism was established to allow Minnesota electric utilities to recover investments and costs incurred to satisfy the requirements of the renewable energy standard. The MPUC is authorized to approve a rate schedule rider to enable utilities to recover the costs of qualifying renewable energy projects that supply renewable energy to Minnesota customers. Cost recovery for qualifying renewable energy projects can be authorized outside of a rate case proceeding, provided that such renewable projects have received previous MPUC approval. Renewable resource costs eligible for recovery may include return on investment, depreciation, operation and maintenance costs, taxes, renewable energy delivery costs and other related expenses. 

 

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Minnesota Conservation Improvement Programs (MNCIP)—Under Minnesota law, every regulated public utility that furnishes electric service must make annual investments and expenditures in energy conservation improvements or make a contribution to the state's energy and conservation account, in an amount equal to at least 1.5% of its gross operating revenues from service provided in Minnesota.

 

The MNDOC may require a utility to make investments and expenditures in energy conservation improvements whenever it finds that the improvement will result in energy savings at a total cost to the utility less than the cost to the utility to produce or purchase an equivalent amount of a new supply of energy. Such MNDOC orders can be appealed to the MPUC. Investments made pursuant to such orders generally are included as recoverable costs in rate cases, even though ownership of the improvement may belong to the property owner rather than the utility. OTP recovers conservation related costs not included in base rates under the MNCIP through the use of an annual recovery mechanism approved by the MPUC.

 

On May 25, 2016 the MPUC adopted the MNDOC’s proposed changes to the MNCIP financial incentive. The new model provides utilities an incentive of 13.5% of 2017 net benefits, 12% of 2018 net benefits and 10% of 2019 net benefits, assuming the utility achieves 1.7% savings compared to retail sales. The financial incentive is also limited to 40% of 2017 MNCIP spending, 35% of 2018 spending and 30% of 2019 spending. The new model reduces the MNCIP financial incentive by approximately 50% compared to the previous incentive mechanism.

 

On April 1, 2016 OTP requested approval for recovery of its 2015 MNCIP program costs not included in base rates, a $4.3 million financial incentive and an update to the MNCIP surcharge from the MPUC. On July 19, 2016 the MPUC issued an order approving OTP’s request with an effective date of October 1, 2016.

 

Based on results from the 2016 MNCIP program year, OTP recognized MNCIP financial incentives of $5.1 million in 2016, which included a $0.1 million true-up of 2015 financial incentives earned. The 2016 program resulted in an approximate 18% increase in energy savings compared to 2015 program results. On March 31, 2017 OTP requested approval for recovery of its 2016 MNCIP program costs not included in base rates, $5.0 million in performance incentives and an update to the MNCIP surcharge from the MPUC. On September 15, 2017 the MPUC issued an order approving OTP’s request with an effective date of October 1, 2017.

 

Based on results from the 2017 MNCIP program year, OTP recognized a financial incentive of $2.6 million in 2017. The 2017 program resulted in a decrease in energy savings compared to 2016 program results of approximately 10%. OTP requested approval for recovery of its 2017 MNCIP program costs not included in base rates on March 30, 2018. The request included a $2.6 million financial incentive and an update to the MNCIP surcharge from the MPUC. On June 13, 2018, in reply comments to a MNDOC recommendation for approval filed on May 30, 2018, OTP increased its request for a financial incentive to $2.9 million. On October 4, 2018, the MPUC issued an order approving OTP’s request of $2.9 million with an effective date of November 1, 2018, subject to further review by the MPUC to ensure no previous decisions conflict with the decision, with $0.3 million subject to possible refund.

 

Based on results from the 2018 MNCIP program year, OTP recognized $3.0 million out of a potential $3.15 million in financial incentives earned in 2018. OTP will request approval for recovery of its 2018 program costs not included in base rates, a $3.15 million financial incentive and an update to its MNCIP surcharge from the MPUC by April 1, 2019.

 

In 2016 the MNDOC opened a docket to investigate how investor-owned utilities calculate their avoided costs pertaining to transmission and distribution. Avoided costs are the basis of MNCIP program benefits which, going forward, will establish OTP’s financial incentive. On May 23, 2016 the MNDOC accepted OTP’s 2017 avoided costs calculation but required Minnesota investor-owned utilities to undergo an analysis of transmission and distribution avoided costs for 2018 and 2019. OTP is participating in a stakeholder group with the MNDOC, Xcel Energy Inc., and Minnesota Power to determine the best method for calculating avoided costs. On September 29, 2017, the MNDOC issued a decision on utilities’ transmission and distribution avoided costs. The decision did not require OTP to update avoided costs or cost-effectiveness for the 2017-2019 MNCIP triennial plan. The decision directed OTP to use the discrete approach methodology to calculate avoided transmission and distribution costs as part of OTP’s 2020-2022 MNCIP triennial plans.

 

Transmission Cost Recovery Rider—The MPU Act authorizes the MPUC to approve a mechanism for automatic adjustment outside of a general rate proceeding to recover the costs of new transmission facilities that have been previously approved by the MPUC in a CON proceeding, certified by the MPUC as a Minnesota priority transmission project, made to transmit the electricity generated from renewable generation sources ultimately used to provide service to the utility's retail customers, or that are exempt from the requirement to obtain a Minnesota CON. The MPUC may also authorize cost recovery via such TCR riders for charges incurred by a utility under a federally approved tariff that accrue from other transmission owners’ regionally planned transmission projects that have been determined by the MISO to benefit the utility or integrated transmission system.

 

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The MPU Act also authorizes TCR riders to recover the costs of new transmission facilities approved by the regulatory commission of the state in which the new transmission facilities are to be constructed, to the extent approval is required by the laws of that state and determined by the MISO to benefit the utility or integrated transmission system. Finally, under certain circumstances, the MPU Act also authorizes TCR riders to recover the costs associated with distribution planning and investments in distribution facilities to modernize the utility grid. Such TCR riders allow a return on investment at the level approved in a utility’s most recently completed general rate case or such other rate of return the MPUC determines is in the public interest. Additionally, following approval of a rate schedule, the MPUC may approve annual rate adjustments filed pursuant to the rate schedule. MISO regional cost allocation allows OTP to recover some of the costs of its transmission investment from other MISO customers.

 

OTP filed an annual update to its Minnesota TCR rider on September 30, 2015 requesting revenue recovery of approximately $7.8 million. A supplemental filing to the update was made on December 21, 2015 to address an issue surrounding the proration of accumulated deferred income taxes and, in an unrelated adjustment, the TCR rider update revenue request was reduced to $7.2 million. On March 9, 2016 the MPUC issued an order approving OTP’s annual update to its TCR rider, with an effective date of April 1, 2016.

 

OTP filed an update to its TCR rider on April 29, 2016 to incorporate the impact of bonus depreciation for income taxes, an adjusted rate of return on rate base and allocation factors to align with its 2016 general rate case request. On July 5, 2016 the MPUC issued an order approving the proposed rates on a provisional basis, as recommended by the MNDOC. The proposed rate changes went into effect on September 1, 2016. On October 30, 2017 the MPUC issued an order resetting OTP’s Minnesota TCR rates in effect since September 1, 2016 to refund $3.3 million previously collected under the rider, beginning November 1, 2017. The reset rates were approved on a provisional basis in the Minnesota general rate case docket, subject to revision in a separate docket.

 

In OTP’s 2016 general rate case order issued on May 1, 2017, the MPUC ordered OTP to include, in the TCR rider retail rate base, Minnesota’s jurisdictional share of OTP’s investment in the Big Stone South–Brookings and Big Stone South–Ellendale MVPs and all revenues received from other utilities under MISO’s tariffed rates as a credit in its TCR revenue requirement calculations. In doing so, the MPUC’s order diverted interstate wholesale revenues approved by the FERC to offset FERC-approved expenses, effectively reducing OTP’s recovery of those FERC-approved expense levels. The MPUC-ordered treatment resulted in the projects being treated as retail investments for Minnesota retail ratemaking purposes. Because the FERC’s revenue requirements and authorized returns vary from the MPUC revenue requirements and authorized returns for the project investments over the lives of the projects, the impact of this decision can vary over time and be dependent on the differences between the revenue requirements and returns in the two jurisdictions at any given time. On August 18, 2017 OTP filed an appeal of the MPUC order with the Minnesota Court of Appeals to contest the portion of the order requiring OTP to jurisdictionally allocate costs of the FERC MVP transmission projects in the TCR rider.

 

On June 11, 2018 the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed the MPUC’s order related to the inclusion of Minnesota’s jurisdictional share of OTP’s investment in the Big Stone South–Brookings and Big Stone South–Ellendale MVPs and all revenues received from other utilities under MISO’s tariffed rates as a credit in OTP Minnesota TCR revenue requirement calculations. On July 11, 2018 the MPUC filed a petition for review of the MVP decision to the Minnesota Supreme Court, which has granted review of the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision. A decision by the Minnesota Supreme Court is expected in either second or third quarter 2019.

 

On November 30, 2018 OTP filed its annual update and supplemental filing to the Minnesota TCR rider. In this filing two scenarios were submitted based on whether the Minnesota Supreme Court affirms the original decision by the Minnesota Court of Appeals to exclude the MVP projects from the TCR rider or overturns the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision and includes the two MVP projects in the TCR rider. In both situations the rates are proposed to be effective June 1, 2019 if a decision is made in late first quarter or early second quarter 2019. If the decision is made later than second quarter of 2019, it is likely the MPUC will delay its decision on the TCR rider update. The amount credited to Minnesota customers under the TCR through December 31, 2018 and subject to recovery if the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision is upheld, is approximately $2.3 million.

 

Environmental Cost Recovery Rider—The Minnesota ECR rider provided for recovery of OTP’s Minnesota jurisdictional share of the revenue requirements of its investment in the Big Stone Plant Air Quality Control System (AQCS). The ECR rider provided for a return on the project’s construction work in progress (CWIP) balance at the level approved in OTP’s 2010 general rate case. The MPUC issued an order on March 9, 2016 approving OTP’s request to leave the 2014 annual update rate in place. OTP filed an update to its Minnesota ECR rider on April 29, 2016 to incorporate the impact of bonus depreciation for income taxes, an adjusted rate of return on rate base and allocation factors to align with its 2016 general rate case request, with an effective date of September 1, 2016. On July 5, 2016 the MPUC issued an order approving the proposed rates on a provisional basis. On October 30, 2017 the MPUC issued an order resetting OTP’s Minnesota ECR rate in effect since September 1, 2016 to refund $1.9 million previously collected under the rider, beginning November 1, 2017. In its 2016 

 

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general rate case order, the MPUC approved OTP’s proposal to transition eligible rate base and expense recovery from the ECR rider to base rate recovery, effective with implementation of final rates in November 2017. Accordingly, in its 2018 annual update filing OTP requested, and the MPUC approved, setting the Minnesota ECR rider rate to zero effective December 1, 2018.

 

Reagent Costs and Emission Allowances—These costs were included in OTP’s 2016 general rate case in Minnesota and were considered for recovery either through the Fuel Clause Adjustment (FCA) rider or base rates. In its 2016 general rate case order issued May 1, 2017 the MPUC denied OTP’s request for recovery of test-year reagent costs and emission allowances in base fuel costs and through the FCA rider. Instead, the test-year costs are being recovered in base rates and variability of those costs in excess of amounts included in base rates will only be recovered to the extent actual kwh sales exceed forecasted kwh sales used to establish base rates.

 

Capital Structure Petition—Minnesota law requires an annual filing of a capital structure petition with the MPUC. In this filing the MPUC reviews the capital structure for OTP. Once the petition is approved, OTP may issue securities without further petition or approval, provided the issuance is consistent with the purposes and amounts set forth in the approved capital structure petition. The MPUC approved OTP’s most recent capital structure petition on October 18, 2018, allowing for an equity-to-total-capitalization ratio between 47.9% and 58.5%, with total capitalization not to exceed $1,204,416,000 until the MPUC issues a new capital structure order for 2019. OTP is required to file its 2019 capital structure petition no later than May 1, 2019.

 

North Dakota

 

OTP is subject to the jurisdiction of the NDPSC with respect to rates, services, certain issuances of securities, construction of major utility facilities and other matters. The NDPSC periodically performs audits of gas and electric utilities over which it has rate setting jurisdiction to determine the reasonableness of overall rate levels. In the past, these audits have occasionally resulted in settlement agreements adjusting rate levels for OTP.

 

The North Dakota Energy Conversion and Transmission Facility Siting Act grants the NDPSC the authority to approve sites and routes in North Dakota for large electric generating facilities and high voltage transmission lines, respectively. This Act is similar to the Minnesota Power Plant Siting Act described above and applies to proposed wind energy electric power generating plants exceeding 500 kW of electricity, non-wind energy electric power generating plants exceeding 50,000 kW and transmission lines with a design in excess of 115 kV. OTP is also required to submit a ten-year facility plan to the NDPSC biennially.

 

The NDPSC reserves the right to review the issuance of stocks, bonds, notes and other evidence of indebtedness of a public utility. However, the issuance by a public utility of securities registered with the SEC is expressly exempted from review by the NDPSC under North Dakota state law.

 

General Rates—On November 2, 2017 OTP filed a request with the NDPSC for a rate review and an effective increase in annual revenues from non-fuel base rates of $13.1 million or 8.72%. The requested $13.1 million increase was net of reductions in North Dakota Renewable Resource Adjustment (NDRRA), TCR and ECR rider revenues that would have resulted from a lower allowed rate of return on equity and changes in allocation factors in the general rate case. In the request, OTP proposed an allowed return on rate base of 7.97% and an allowed rate of return on equity of 10.30%. On December 20, 2017 the NDPSC approved OTP’s request for interim rates to increase annual revenue collections by $12.8 million, effective January 1, 2018. In response to the reduction in the federal corporate tax rate under the TCJA, the NDPSC issued an order on February 27, 2018 reducing OTP’s annual revenue requirement for interim rates by $4.5 million to $8.3 million, effective March 1, 2018.

 

On March 23, 2018 OTP made a supplemental filing to its initial request for a rate review, reducing its request for an annual revenue increase from $13.1 million to $7.1 million, a 4.8% annual increase. The $6.0 million decrease included $4.8 million related to tax reform and $1.2 million related to other updates.

 

In a September 26, 2018 hearing the NDPSC approved an overall annual revenue increase of $4.6 million (3.1%) and a ROE of 9.77% on a 52.5% equity capital structure. This compares with OTP’s March 2018 adjusted annual revenue increase request of $7.1 million (4.8%) and a requested ROE of 10.3%. The NDPSC’s approval does not require any rate base adjustments from OTP’s original request and establishes a Generation Cost Recovery rider for future recovery of costs incurred for Astoria Station. The net revenue increase reflects a reduction in income tax recovery requirements related to the TCJA and decreases in rider revenue recovery requirements. Final rates will be effective February 1, 2019, with refunds of excess revenues collected under interim rates applied to customers’ April 2019 bills. OTP has accrued an interim rate refund of $3.0 million as of December 31, 2018, which includes the $0.8 million in excess revenue collected for income taxes under interim rates in effect in January and February 2018.

 

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Renewable Resource Adjustment—OTP has a NDRRA rider which enables OTP to recover the North Dakota share of its investments in renewable energy facilities it owns in North Dakota. This rider allows OTP to recover costs associated with new renewable energy projects as they are completed, along with a return on investment. OTP submitted its 2015 annual update to the NDRRA rider rate on December 31, 2015 with a requested implementation date of April 1, 2016. On February 25, 2016 OTP made a supplemental filing to address the impact of bonus depreciation for income taxes and related deferred tax assets on the NDRRA, as well as an adjustment to the estimated amount of federal production tax credits (PTCs) used. The NDPSC approved the NDRRA 2015 annual update on June 22, 2016 with an effective date of July 1, 2016. The updated NDRRA reflected a reduction in the ROE component of the rate from 10.75%, approved in OTP’s 2008 general rate case, to 10.50%. OTP submitted its 2016 annual update to the NDRRA rider rate on December 30, 2016, requesting a decrease to the NDRRA rate from 7.573% to 7.005%. The NDPSC approved the NDRRA 2016 annual update on March 15, 2017 with an effective date of April 1, 2017.

 

In conjunction with OTP’s November 2, 2017 general rate case filing, OTP submitted an updated proposal to adjust the NDRRA rate to reflect updated costs and collections, as well as reflect a rate of return and capital structure level consistent with those proposed in the general rate case. The NDPSC approved the update to the NDRRA rate in conjunction with approving the rate case interim rates and the NDRRA rate increased from 7.005% to 7.756% with an effective date of January 1, 2018. A reset of the NDRRA rate to reflect the effect of the federal corporate tax rate reduction under the TCJA was approved on February 27, 2018, reducing the NDRRA rate to 7.493%, effective March 1, 2018.

 

In a filing to the NDPSC on December 31, 2018 OTP requested approval for an annual update to its NDRRA rider rate to -0.224% of base charges, based on an annual refund requirement of $236,000, to be effective for bills rendered on and after April 1, 2019. The refund requirement results from recovery of the Ashtabula, Langdon, and Luverne wind projects being moved into base rates as of December 31, 2018 as well as a reduction in revenue requirements related to the difference between the deferred tax asset for PTCs included in base rates and actual amounts associated with the Ashtabula and Langdon wind projects.

 

Effective in February 2019 with the implementation of general rates based on the results of OTP’s 2017 general rate case, recovery of renewable resource costs previously being recovered through the North Dakota RRA rider transitioned to recovery in base rates.

 

Transmission Cost Recovery Rider—North Dakota law provides a mechanism for automatic adjustment outside of a general rate proceeding to recover jurisdictional capital and operating costs incurred by a public utility for new or modified electric transmission facilities. For qualifying projects, the law authorizes a current return on CWIP and a return on investment at the level approved in the utility's most recent general rate case. Based on the order in the general rate case, only certain costs will remain subject to refund or recovery through this rider: Southwest Power Pool (SPP) costs and MISO Schedule 26 and 26A revenues and expenses and costs related to rider projects still under construction in the test year used in the 2017 general rate case. This rider will continue to be updated annually for new or modified electric transmission facilities and associated operating costs.

 

On September 1, 2016 OTP filed its annual update to the TCR rider requesting a revenue requirement of $5.7 million, including a reduction of $2.6 million for a projected over-collection for 2016. Primary drivers of a decrease from the 2015 updated rider rate include the impact of federal bonus depreciation and unresolved MISO ROE complaint proceedings. OTP filed a supplemental filing on September 14, 2016, requesting that the over-collection balance be spread over two succeeding years to reduce the volatility from year to year. The NDPSC approved the update on December 14, 2016. The new rates went into effect on January 1, 2017.

 

On August 31, 2017 OTP filed its annual update to the TCR rider requesting a revenue requirement of $8.6 million. OTP made a supplemental filing on November 2, 2017, reducing its request by $0.6 million to $8.0 million to reflect the rate of return and allocation factors used in its general rate case filed the same day. The NDPSC approved the update for recovery of the $8.0 million revenue requirement on November 29, 2017 and the new rates went into effect on January 1, 2018. A reset of the TCR rate to reflect the effect of the federal corporate tax rate reduction under the TCJA was approved on February 27, 2018, reducing annual revenue recovery under the TCR rate by $0.5 million effective March 1, 2018.

 

On August 31, 2018 OTP filed its annual update to the TCR rider. The filing included three new projects along with updates to collections, actual costs and forecasted amounts for rider-eligible projects. The filing also reflected projects moving to base rates proposed to become effective in October 2018, in the above-described general rate case. On November 7, 2018 OTP filed a supplement to the TCR rider update indicating two of the three new projects had been postponed and the roll-in of rider costs to base rates was calculated based on a change to January 1, 2019. The update request was approved by the NDPSC on December 6, 2018 and the updated rates went into effect with bills rendered on or after February 1, 2019 to coincide with the launch of OTP’s new customer information and billing system.

 

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Environmental Cost Recovery Rider—OTP has an ECR rider in North Dakota to recover its North Dakota jurisdictional share of the revenue requirements associated with its investment in the Big Stone Plant AQCS and Hoot Lake Plant Mercury and Air Toxic Standards (MATS) projects. The ECR rider has provided for a return on investment at the level approved in OTP’s preceding general rate case and for recovery of OTP’s North Dakota share of reagent and emission allowance costs.

 

On March 31, 2016 OTP filed its annual update to the ECR rider requesting a reduction in the rate from 9.193% to 7.904% of base rates, or a revenue requirement reduction from $12.2 million to $10.4 million, effective July 1, 2016. The rate reduction request was primarily due to the Company’s 2015 bonus depreciation election for income taxes, which reduces revenue requirements. The filing was approved on June 22, 2016.

 

On March 31, 2017 OTP filed its annual update to the ECR rider requesting a reduction in the rate from 7.904% to 7.633% of base rates, or a revenue requirement reduction from $10.4 million to $9.9 million, effective August 1, 2017. The rate reduction request was primarily due to a reduction in the projects’ unrecovered costs and lower net book values as a result of depreciation. The filing was approved on July 12, 2017.

 

In conjunction with OTP’s November 2, 2017 general rate case filing, OTP submitted an updated proposal to adjust the ECR rider rate to reflect updated costs and collections and a rate of return and capital structure level consistent with those proposed in the general rate case. The NDPSC approved the update to the ECR rider rate in conjunction with approving the general rate case interim rates. The new ECR rate decreased from 7.633% to 6.629% with an effective date of January 1, 2018. A reset of the ECR rate to reflect the effect of the federal corporate tax rate reduction under the TCJA was approved on February 27, 2018, reducing the ECR rate to 5.593%, effective March 1, 2018.

 

Based on the order in the 2017 general rate case, project costs previously being recovered under the rider would be recovered in base rates and reagent and emission allowance costs will be recovered through the energy adjustment rider. The rider was zeroed out at the implementation of final rates on February 1, 2019, except for an overcollection balance that will be refunded to ratepayers through the rider.

 

South Dakota

 

Under the South Dakota Public Utilities Act, OTP is subject to the jurisdiction of the SDPUC with respect to rates, public utility services, construction of major utility facilities, establishment of assigned service areas and other matters. Under the South Dakota Energy Facility Permit Act, the SDPUC has the authority to approve sites in South Dakota for large energy conversion facilities (100,000 kW or more) and most transmission lines with a design of 115 kV or more.

 

General Rates—On April 20, 2018 OTP filed a request with the SDPUC to increase non-fuel rates in South Dakota by approximately $3.3 million annually, or 10.1%, as the first step in a two-step request. Interim rates went into effect October 18, 2018. On February 5, 2019 SDPUC staff and OTP requested that the SDPUC issue a procedural schedule setting evidentiary hearings for March 26-28, 2019. The full effects of the TCJA on South Dakota revenue requirements will be addressed in the rate case and incorporated into final rates at the conclusion of that case. The second step in the request is an additional 1.7% increase to recover costs for the proposed Merricourt wind generation facility when the facility goes into service. On February 15, 2019 the Company reached a partial settlement with SDPUC staff which requires SDPUC approval.

 

Transmission Cost Recovery Rider—South Dakota law provides a mechanism for automatic adjustment outside of a general rate proceeding to recover jurisdictional capital and operating costs incurred by a public utility for new or modified electric transmission facilities. OTP has a TCR rider in South Dakota to recover its South Dakota jurisdictional share of the revenue requirements associated with its investment in new or modified electric transmission facilities. OTP filed its 2015 annual update on October 30, 2015 with a proposed effective date of March 1, 2016. A supplemental filing was made on February 3, 2016 to true-up the filing to include the impact of bonus depreciation elected for 2015, the inclusion of a deferred tax asset relating to a net operating loss and the proration of accumulated deferred income taxes. This update included the recovery of new SPP transmission costs OTP began to incur on January 1, 2016. On February 12, 2016 the SDPUC approved OTP’s annual update to its TCR rider, with an effective date of March 1, 2016. On November 1, 2016 OTP filed the annual update to the South Dakota TCR rider. OTP made a supplemental filing on January 20, 2017 to include updated costs through December 2016 as well as updated forecast information. On February 17, 2017 the SDPUC approved OTP’s annual update to its TCR rider, with an effective date of March 1, 2017. On November 1, 2017 OTP filed the annual update to the South Dakota TCR rider with a requested annual revenue requirement of $1.8 million and effective date of March 1, 2018. A supplemental filing was made on January 29, 2018 to reflect updated costs and collections and incorporate the impact of the federal corporate income tax rate under the TCJA. The updated annual revenue requirement request was $1.8 million. Effective October 18, 2018, with the implementation of interim rates under South Dakota general rate case proceedings, the TCR rate was decreased to reflect an annual revenue requirement of $1.2 million as a result of certain costs being transitioned to recovery through interim rates and proposed for ongoing recovery in final base rates at the conclusion of the pending general rate case.

 

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Environmental Cost Recovery Rider— OTP has an ECR rider in South Dakota to recover its South Dakota jurisdictional share of the revenue requirements associated with its investment in the Big Stone Plant AQCS and Hoot Lake Plant MATS projects. On August 31, 2016 OTP filed its 2016 update to the ECR rider, requesting recovery of approximately $2.2 million in annual revenue. The SDPUC approved the request on October 26, 2016 with an effective date of November 1, 2016. The lower revenue requirement is a result of the implementation of federal bonus depreciation taken on the Big Stone Plant AQCS. On August 31, 2017 OTP filed its 2017 update to the ECR rider, requesting recovery of approximately $2.1 million in annual revenue. The SDPUC approved the request on October 13, 2017 with an effective date of November 1, 2017. Effective October 18, 2018, with the implementation of interim rates under South Dakota general rate case proceedings, the ECR rate was decreased to -$0.00075/kwh to refund $0.2 million previously collected under the rider, and the ECR-eligible costs are proposed for ongoing recovery in final base rates at the end of the 2018 general rate case described above.

 

Reagent Costs and Emission Allowances—OTP’s South Dakota jurisdictional share of reagent costs and emission allowances is currently being recovered in its South Dakota FCA rider.

 

Energy Efficiency Plan (EEP)—The SDPUC has encouraged all investor-owned utilities in South Dakota to be part of an Energy Efficiency Partnership to significantly reduce energy use. The plan is being implemented with program costs, carrying costs and a financial incentive being recovered through an approved rider.

 

On April 29, 2016 OTP filed its 2015 South Dakota EEP Status Report, financial incentive and surcharge adjustment with the SDPUC. The filing requested approval of an incentive of $105,900 and a decrease in the EEP surcharge from $0.00152/kwh to $0.00114/kwh effective July 1, 2016. The SDPUC approved the request. On April 29, 2016 OTP also filed its 2017-2019 goals and budgets for its South Dakota EEP triennial plan. For the 2017, 2018 and 2019 EEP planning years, OTP has proposed energy savings goals and budgets of 3,804,094 kwh and $449,000 in 2017, 3,805,177 kwh and $449,000 in 2018 and 3,806,262 kwh and $449,000 in 2019. On November 22, 2016 the SDPUC approved OTP’s 2017-2019 EEP triennial plan with certain conditions.

 

On May 1, 2017 OTP filed its 2016 South Dakota EEP Status Report, financial incentive and surcharge adjustment with the SDPUC. The filing requested approval of an incentive of $105,900 and an increase in the EEP surcharge from $0.00114/kwh to $0.00138/kwh effective July 1, 2017. The SDPUC approved the request on June 21, 2017.

 

On May 1, 2018, OTP filed its 2017 South Dakota EEP Status Report, financial incentive, and surcharge adjustment with the SDPUC. The filing requested approval of an incentive of $134,700 and an increase in the EEP surcharge from $0.00138/kwh to $0.00155/kwh effective July 1, 2018. The SDPUC approved the request on June 26, 2018. On September 21, 2018 OTP filed a modification to its 2016-2019 EEP Plan. This modification requested an additional $250,000 annually for three years starting in 2019. The increased budget was requested to pay additional rebates for a large customer that is planning to make significant energy efficiency investments in its expanding facilities. On December 11, 2018, the SDPUC approved the request.

 

FERC

 

Wholesale power sales and transmission rates are subject to the jurisdiction of the FERC under the Federal Power Act. The FERC is an independent agency with jurisdiction over rates for wholesale electricity sales, transmission and sale of electric energy in interstate commerce, interconnection of facilities, and accounting policies and practices. Filed rates are effective after a suspension period, subject to ultimate approval by the FERC.

 

MVPs—On December 16, 2010 the FERC approved the cost allocation for a new classification of projects in the MISO region called MVPs. MVPs are designed to enable the region to comply with energy policy mandates and to address reliability and economic issues affecting multiple transmission zones within the MISO region. The cost allocation is designed to ensure that the costs of transmission projects with regional benefits are properly assigned to those who benefit. On October 20, 2011 the FERC reaffirmed the MVP cost allocation on rehearing.

 

Effective January 1, 2012 the FERC authorized OTP to recover 100% of prudently incurred CWIP and Abandoned Plant Recovery on two projects approved by MISO as MVPs in MISO’s 2011 Transmission Expansion Plan: the Big Stone South–Brookings MVP and the Big Stone South–Ellendale MVP.

 

Transmission Tariff ROE Complaints—On November 12, 2013 a group of industrial customers and other stakeholders filed a complaint with the FERC seeking to reduce the ROE component of the transmission rates that MISO transmission owners, including OTP, may collect under the MISO Tariff. The complainants sought to reduce the 12.38% ROE used in MISO’s transmission rates to a proposed 9.15%. The complaint established a 15-month refund period from November 12, 2013 to February 11, 2015. A non-binding decision by the presiding Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) was issued on December 22, 2015 finding that the MISO transmission owners’ ROE should be 10.32%, and the FERC issued an order on September 28, 2016 setting the base ROE at 10.32%. Several parties requested rehearing of the September 2016 order and the requests are pending FERC action.

 

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On November 6, 2014 a group of MISO transmission owners, including OTP, filed for a FERC incentive of an additional 50 basis points for Regional Transmission Organization participation (RTO Adder). On January 5, 2015 the FERC granted the request, deferring collection of the RTO Adder until the FERC issued its order in the ROE complaint proceeding. Based on the FERC adjustment to the MISO Tariff ROE resulting from the November 12, 2013 complaint and OTP’s incentive rate filing, OTP’s ROE was 10.82% (a 10.32% base ROE plus the 0.5% RTO Adder) effective September 28, 2016.

 

On February 12, 2015 another group of stakeholders filed a complaint with the FERC seeking to reduce the ROE component of the transmission rates that MISO transmission owners, including OTP, may collect under the MISO Tariff from 12.38% to a proposed 8.67%. This second complaint established a second 15-month refund period from February 12, 2015 to May 11, 2016. The FERC issued an order on June 18, 2015 setting the complaint for hearings before an ALJ, which were held the week of February 16, 2016. A non-binding decision by the presiding ALJ was issued on June 30, 2016 finding that the MISO transmission owners’ ROE should be 9.7%. OTP is currently waiting for the issuance of a FERC order on the second complaint.

 

Based on the probable reduction by the FERC in the ROE component of the MISO Tariff, OTP had a $2.7 million liability on its balance sheet as of December 31, 2016, representing OTP’s best estimate of the refund obligations that would arise, net of amounts that would be subject to recovery under state jurisdictional TCR riders, based on a reduced ROE. MISO processed the refund for the FERC-ordered reduction in the MISO Tariff allowed ROE for the first 15-month refund period in its February and June 2017 billings. The refund, in combination with a decision in the 2016 Minnesota general rate case that affected the Minnesota TCR rider, has resulted in a reduction in OTP’s accrued MISO Tariff ROE refund liability from $2.7 million on December 31, 2016 to $1.6 million as of December 31, 2018.

 

In June 2014, the FERC adopted a two-step ROE methodology for electric utilities in an order issued in a complaint proceeding involving New England Transmission Owners (NETOs). The issue of how to apply the FERC ROE methodology has been contested in various complaint proceedings, including the two ROE complaints involving MISO transmission owners discussed above. In April 2017 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) vacated and remanded the FERC’s June 2014 ROE order in the NETOs’ complaint. The D.C. Circuit found that the FERC had not properly determined that the ROE authorized for NETOs prior to June 2014 was unjust and unreasonable. The D.C. Circuit also found that the FERC failed to justify the new ROE methodology. OTP will await the FERC response to the April 2017 action of the D.C. Circuit before determining if an adjustment to its accrued refund liability is required. On September 29, 2017 the MISO transmission owners filed a motion to dismiss the second complaint based on the D.C. Circuit decision in the NETOs complaint. The motion is currently pending before the FERC.

 

On October 16, 2018 the FERC issued an order proposing a methodology for addressing the issues that were remanded to the FERC by the D.C. Circuit in April 2017. The FERC order established a paper hearing on how the methodology should apply to the proceedings pending before the FERC involving NETOs’ ROE. In the order, the FERC selected a preliminary just and reasonable ROE for NETOs of 10.41%, exclusive of incentives, with a proposed cap on any pre-existing incentive-based total ROE at 13.08% and directed participants to submit supplemental briefs and additional written evidence regarding the proposed approaches to the Federal Power Act Section 206 inquiry and how to apply them to the NETO ROE complaints. On November 15, 2018 the FERC issued an order establishing a paper hearing on whether and how a two-step ROE methodology developed for NETOs should apply to the ROE for the MISO transmission owners. Initial briefs were due February 13, 2019 and reply briefs are due April 10, 2019.

 

OTP believes its estimated accrued MISO Tariff ROE refund liability of $1.6 million as of December 30, 2018 related to the second MISO tariff ROE complaint is appropriate.

 

NAEMA

 

OTP is a member of the North American Energy Marketers Association (NAEMA) which is an independent, non-profit trade association representing entities involved in the marketing of energy or in providing services to the energy industry. NAEMA has over 150 members with operations in 48 states and Canada. Power pool sales are conducted continuously through NAEMA in accordance with schedules filed by NAEMA with the FERC.

 

North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC)

 

NERC has regulatory authority spanning the United States, Canada and the northern portion of Baja California, Mexico, and is subject to oversight by the FERC and governmental authorities in Canada. NERC’s mission is to assure the reliability of the bulk power system in North America. As an owner and operator within the bulk power system, OTP is required to comply with NERC reliability standards, including standards on cybersecurity and protection of critical infrastructure.

 

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Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO)

 

OTP is a member of the MRO. The MRO is a non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the reliability and security of the bulk power system in the north central region of North America, including parts of both the United States and Canada. MRO began operations in 2005 and is one of eight regional entities in North America operating under authority from regulators in the United States and Canada through a delegation agreement with the NERC. The MRO is responsible for: (1) developing and implementing reliability standards, (2) enforcing compliance with those standards, (3) providing seasonal and long-term assessments of the bulk power system’s ability to meet demand for electricity, and (4) providing an appeals and dispute resolution process.

 

The MRO region covers roughly one million square miles spanning the provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and the majority of territory in the states of South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The region includes more than 130 organizations that are involved in the production and delivery of power to more than 20 million people. These organizations include municipal utilities, cooperatives, investor-owned utilities, a federal power marketing agency, Canadian Crown Corporations, independent power producers and others who have interests in the reliability of the bulk power system.

 

To ensure our compliance with NERC standards, the MRO periodically audits OTP. MRO’s current audit of OTP began with notification in October 2018. The final report is not expected for several months.

 

MISO

 

OTP is a member of the MISO. The MISO operates the transmission facilities owned by others and administers energy and generation capacity markets. As the transmission provider and security coordinator for the region, the MISO seeks to optimize the efficiency of the interconnected system, provide solutions to regional planning needs and minimize risk to reliability through its security coordination, long-term regional planning, market monitoring, scheduling and tariff administration functions. The MISO covers a broad region including all or parts of 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba. The MISO has operational control of OTP’s transmission facilities above 100 kV, but OTP continues to own and maintain its transmission assets.

 

Through the MISO day-ahead and real-time energy markets, MISO seeks to develop options for energy supply, increase utilization of transmission assets, optimize the use of energy resources across a wider region and provide greater visibility of data. The MISO aims to facilitate a more cost-effective and efficient use of the wholesale bulk electric system.

 

The MISO Ancillary Services Market (ASM) facilitates the provision of Regulation, Spinning Reserve and Supplemental Reserves. The ASM integrates the procurement and use of regulation and contingency reserves with the existing Energy Market. OTP has actively participated in the market since its commencement.

 

Other

 

OTP is subject to various federal laws, including the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 and the Energy Policy Act of 1992 (which are intended to promote the conservation of energy and the development and use of alternative energy sources) and the Energy Policy Act of 2005.

 

Competition, Deregulation and Legislation

 

Electric sales are subject to competition in some areas from municipally owned systems, rural electric cooperatives and, in certain respects, from on-site generators and cogenerators. Electricity also competes with other forms of energy. The degree of competition may vary from time to time depending on relative costs and supplies of other forms of energy.

 

The Company believes OTP is well positioned to be successful in a competitive environment. A comparison of OTP’s electric retail rates to the rates of other investor-owned utilities, cooperatives and municipals in the states OTP serves indicates OTP’s rates are competitive.

 

Legislative and regulatory activity could affect operations in the future. OTP cannot predict the timing or substance of any future legislation or regulation. The Company does not expect retail competition to come to the states of Minnesota, North Dakota or South Dakota in the foreseeable future. There has been no legislative action regarding electric retail choice in any of the states where OTP operates. The Minnesota legislature has in the past considered legislation that, if passed, would have limited the Company’s ability to maintain and grow its nonelectric businesses.

 

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OTP is currently participating in a Distributed Generation (DG) Workgroup in Minnesota in a docket established by the MPUC. Distributed energy resources are utility- or customer-owned resources on the distribution grid that can include combined heat and power, solar photovoltaic, wind, battery storage, thermal storage, and demand-response technologies. DG is the generation of electricity on-site or close to where it is needed in small facilities designed to meet local needs. Advances in technology and economics are contributing to increasing interest in DG in Minnesota and consumer requests for DG will likely grow. OTP is working to accurately identify and quantify the impacts (including costs and values) of DG; this can be difficult because the impacts of DG vary geographically and over time.

 

In 2011 the FERC required some electric transmission providers, including the MISO, to remove from their tariffs a federal right of first refusal to construct transmission facilities selected in a regional transmission plan for purposes of cost allocation. However, state laws allowing rights of first refusal to construct electric transmission infrastructure still exist in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

 

OTP and other Minnesota electric transmission owners (Amici Utilities) are involved in a federal lawsuit and subsequent 8th Circuit appeal filed by LSP Transmission Holdings, LLC (LSP) challenging a Minnesota statute granting incumbent electric transmission owners a right of first refusal to construct new transmission facilities connected to existing facilities. LSP has argued that the Minnesota law violates the dormant Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. A federal district court rejected that argument, and LSP appealed. The Amici Utilities support the Minnesota right of first refusal law as a reasoned policy judgment by the State of Minnesota and thus not subject to challenge under the dormant Commerce Clause. The appeal is currently being briefed, and it is unknown at this time when a decision will be issued.

 

OTP has been involved in a MISO process re-establishing the right of transmission owners to elect the initial funding of electric transmission projects required to support the interconnection of the generator’s project to the MISO transmission system. In 2018 the D.C. Circuit vacated earlier FERC orders limiting transmission owners’ initial funding of transmission upgrade projects required by generator interconnections. As a result, the MISO Tariff and related agreements establish once again that MISO transmission owners have the discretion to initially fund the construction of certain qualifying interconnection-related transmission upgrades. Thus, the Company, as a MISO transmission owner, can invest the initial capital for such qualifying upgrades and earn a return on and of the capital investment from interconnection customers.

 

OTP is unable to predict the impact on its operations resulting from future regulatory activities, from future legislation or from future taxes that may be imposed on the source or use of energy.

 

Environmental Regulation

 

Impact of Environmental Laws—OTP’s existing generating plants are subject to stringent federal and state standards and regulations regarding, among other things, air, water and solid waste pollution. In the five years ended December 31, 2018 OTP invested approximately $120.4 million in environmental control facilities. The 2019 and 2020 construction budgets include approximately $4.2 million and $0.3 million, respectively, for environmental equipment for existing facilities. Additional expenditures may be required depending on the outcome of various environmental regulations currently under consideration for implementation, and such expenditures could be material.

 

Air Quality - Criteria Pollutants—Pursuant to the Clean Air Act (CAA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has promulgated national primary and secondary standards for certain air pollutants.

 

The primary fuels burned by OTP’s steam generating plants are North Dakota lignite coal and western subbituminous coal. Hoot Lake Plant, Big Stone Plant, and Coyote Station are currently operating within all presently applicable federal and state air quality and emission standards.

 

The CAA, in addressing acid deposition, imposed requirements on power plants in an effort to reduce national emissions of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx).

 

The national Acid Rain Program SO2 emission reduction goals are achieved through a market-based system under which power plants are allocated "emissions allowances" that require plants to either reduce their SO2 emissions or acquire allowances from others to achieve compliance. Each allowance is an authorization to emit one ton of SO2. SO2 emission requirements are currently being met by all of OTP’s generating facilities without the need to acquire additional allowances for compliance.

 

The national Acid Rain Program NOx emission reduction goals are achieved by imposing mandatory emissions standards on individual sources. All of OTP’s generating facilities met the NOx standards during 2018.

 

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The Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) requires SO2 and NOx emission reductions in primarily eastern states in order to allow downwind states to achieve national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS). CSAPR's Phase 1 emission budgets began on January 1, 2015 for the annual SO2 and NOx programs, with stricter Phase 2 budgets beginning in 2017.

 

The CSAPR rule applies to OTP’s Solway gas peaking plant and the Hoot Lake coal-fired plant in Minnesota. Minnesota is considered a Group 2 state for SO2 compliance. Any SO2 allowances that need to be obtained for Hoot Lake Plant will need to be from an entity in a Group 2 state. Hoot Lake met the CSAPR requirements in 2018 without acquiring additional allowances.

 

On September 7, 2016 the EPA finalized an update to the CSAPR to address interstate emission transport with respect to the more recent 2008 ozone NAAQS. The updated CSAPR does not apply to Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota.

 

On October 1, 2015 the EPA announced that it tightened the primary and secondary NAAQS for ozone from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 70 ppb. On November 16, 2017 EPA issued a final rule determining that all of the areas in the states in which OTP operates will be designated as attainment/unclassifiable.

 

In June 2010, the EPA established a new primary NAAQS for SO2 at a level of 75 ppb on a 1-hour average. Designations for this standard proceeded under several different pathways. For certain large sources, including Big Stone Plant and Coyote Station, the EPA entered into a consent decree with the Sierra Club/Natural Resources Defense Council that required the EPA to promulgate final designations near those sources by July 2, 2016. On June 30, 2016, the EPA signed a final rule that designated the areas around Big Stone Plant and Coyote Station as being in attainment/unclassifiable with the 1-hour SO2 NAAQS. Numerous other sources, including Hoot Lake Plant, are covered by the EPA's final Data Requirements Rule (DRR) that was finalized in August 2015. The DRR requires states to provide either modeling or monitoring data to adequately characterize SO2 emissions surrounding those sources. Based on modeling, in January 2018, the EPA published a final determination of attainment/unclassifiable for the county in which Hoot Lake Plant is located.

 

Air Quality – Hazardous Air Pollutants—On December 16, 2011 the EPA signed a final rule to reduce mercury and other air toxics emissions from power plants known as the MATS rule. With the installation of new pollution control equipment in 2015, OTP's affected units are meeting current requirements. Emissions monitoring equipment and/or stack testing is being used to verify compliance with the standards. Litigation surrounding the MATS rule is ongoing despite the expiration of the compliance deadlines, and the rule remains in effect while the litigation continues. On December 28, 2018 EPA issued a proposed rule that provides that it is not “appropriate and necessary” to regulate hazardous air pollutants from power plants; however, EPA concludes that this new finding would not cause it to rescind MATS. The proposed rule also addresses the CAA requirement to conduct a risk and technology review for power plants, which concludes no revisions to MATS are warranted.

 

Air Quality – EPA New Source Review Enforcement Initiative—In 1998 the EPA announced its New Source Review Enforcement Initiative targeting coal-fired power plants, petroleum refineries, pulp and paper mills and other industries for alleged violations of the EPA’s New Source Review rules. These rules require owners or operators that construct new major sources or make major modifications to existing sources to obtain permits and install air pollution control equipment at affected facilities. Pursuant to the Initiative, the EPA has attempted to determine if emission sources violated certain provisions of the CAA by making major modifications to their facilities without installing state-of-the-art pollution controls. OTP has not received any recent requests from the EPA, pursuant to Section 114(a) of the CAA, to provide information relative to past operation and capital construction projects at its coal-fired plants.

 

Air Quality – Regional Haze Program—The CAA establishes a national visibility goal to prevent any future, and remedy any existing, anthropogenic visibility impairment in Class I air quality areas. The EPA’s Regional Haze Rule (RHR), as adopted in 1999 and revised most recently on January 10, 2017, implements the CAA’s visibility protection provisions. The RHR requires states to determine the consistent rate of progress over time necessary to attain natural visibility conditions on the twenty percent most anthropogenically impaired days by the year 2064. The first RHR implementation period covered the years 2008-2018 and focused on applying Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART) to certain large stationary sources that were in existence on August 7, 1977 but were not in operation before August 7, 1962. Big Stone Plant was determined to be subject to BART, and therefore was required to install Selective Catalytic Reduction and separated over-fire air to reduce NOx emissions, dry flue gas desulfurization to reduce SO2 emissions, and a new baghouse for particulate matter control. The Big Stone Plant compliant AQCS equipment was placed into commercial operation on December 29, 2015. Coyote Station is not a BART-eligible source but was ultimately required to install separated over-fire air to reduce NOx emissions as a reasonable progress source.

 

The second RHR implementation period will cover the years 2018-2028, with state implementation plans (SIPs) due to be submitted to EPA by July 31, 2021. For this second period, states are required to assess reasonable progress with the RHR and determine whether additional emission reductions are needed. As part of this assessment, the North Dakota Department

 

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of Health requested that Coyote Station provide an analysis of technically feasible SO2 and NOx emissions control options, which OTP provided in January 2019. EPA is continuing to develop other implementation tools that will be needed by states for the second period, including producing 2028 visibility modeling results, estimating international source contributions, and developing updated guidance on SIP development. Therefore, additional control measures and related costs required at Coyote Station for the second RHR implementation period remain uncertain but could be material.

 

Air Quality – Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Regulation—Combustion of fossil fuels for the generation of electricity is a considerable stationary source of CO2 emissions in the United States and globally. OTP is an owner or part-owner of three baseload, coal-fired electricity generating plants and three fuel-oil or natural gas-fired combustion turbine peaking plants with a combined net dependable capacity of 650 MW. In 2018 these plants emitted approximately 3.7 million (short) tons of CO2.

 

In April 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision that determined that the EPA has authority to regulate CO2 and other GHGs from automobiles as “air pollutants” under the CAA. The EPA thereafter conducted a rulemaking to determine whether GHG emissions contribute to climate change “which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare.” While this case addressed a provision of the CAA related to emissions from motor vehicles, a parallel provision of the CAA applies to stationary sources such as electric generators. The EPA determined that parallel provision would be automatically triggered once the EPA began regulating motor vehicle GHG emissions. The first step in the EPA rulemaking process was the publication of an endangerment finding in the December 15, 2009 Federal Register where the EPA found that CO2 and five other GHGs – methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) threaten public health and the environment.

 

The EPA’s endangerment finding for GHGs did not in and of itself impose any emission reduction requirements but rather authorized the EPA to finalize the GHG standards for new light-duty vehicles as part of the joint rulemaking with the Department of Transportation. These standards applied to motor vehicles as of January 2011, which the EPA determined made GHGs “subject to regulation” under the CAA. According to the EPA, this triggered the Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V operating permits programs for stationary sources of GHGs. OTP does not anticipate making modifications that would trigger PSD requirements at any of its facilities or undertaking construction of a new unit that might trigger PSD.

 

The EPA has developed New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) for GHGs from new and existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. On October 23, 2015 the EPA published NSPS under section 111(b) of the CAA that require certain new units (as well as modified and reconstructed units) to meet CO2 emission standards. New natural gas combustion turbines are required to meet a standard of 1,000 lbs. of CO2 per gross megawatt hour averaged over a 12-month period if they meet the definition of a baseload unit. New natural gas combined cycle units are anticipated to fit into this category. Simple cycle combustion turbines are regulated in a non-baseload category that is required to meet a heat input-based standard that can be met by burning cleaner fuels such as natural gas. On December 20, 2018 the EPA proposed revisions to the 2015 NSPS; however, the revisions would only impact the standards for new, reconstructed, and modified coal or coal-refuse steam generating units. No changes are being proposed to the NSPS for natural gas combustion turbines.

 

GHG performance standards for existing sources are being developed under CAA Section 111(d) (111(d) Standard). A 111(d) Standard, unlike those set under CAA Section 111(b), applies to existing sources of a pollutant. Under Section 111(d), the EPA promulgates emission guidelines and the states are then given a period of time to develop plans to implement the standard. The EPA reviews each state-developed standard and then approves it if the state’s plan comports with the federal emission guidelines. If the state does not submit a plan or the EPA finds that the plan is inadequate, the EPA will prescribe a plan for that state.

 

For both new and existing sources, the EPA must develop a “standard of performance” that limits the emission of air pollutants using what the EPA determines to be the best system of emission.

 

For existing sources, Section 111(d) also requires the EPA to consider, “among other factors, remaining useful lives of the sources in the category of sources to which such standard applies.”

 

On October 23, 2015 the EPA published Section 111(d) emission guidelines for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants, termed the Clean Power Plan (CPP). The CPP used a formula to calculate state goals that relied on three building blocks: (1) a heat rate improvement at each coal plant, (2) increased reliance on natural gas combined cycle units, and (3) increased deployment of renewable energy. These building blocks were applied to each grid interconnection that resulted in final national uniform emission rate standards of 1,305 pounds of CO2 per net megawatt hour for coal plants and 771 pounds of CO2 per net megawatt hour for natural gas combined cycle plants. The EPA then translated the rate goals into mass-based goals that can be applied to existing sources or, if a state chooses, a mass-based goal that applies to both existing sources and new sources.

 

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A number of states, utilities, and trade groups filed petitions for review with the D.C. Circuit seeking to overturn the rule, and also moved to stay the rule. On January 14, 2016 the D.C. Circuit denied the stay motions. Numerous petitioners then sought an emergency stay in the U.S. Supreme Court. On February 9, 2016 the U.S. Supreme Court granted a stay of the CPP, pending disposition of petitions for review in the D.C. Circuit. The D.C. Circuit heard oral argument on challenges to the CPP on September 27, 2016 before the full court, and a decision was expected in the first half of 2017. However, pursuant to Executive Order 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, the EPA was directed to consider suspending, revising or rescinding the CO2 rules discussed above. Thereafter, the EPA issued notices of its intent to review these rules pursuant to the Executive Order, and it filed motions to stay the pending litigation. The D.C. Circuit subsequently issued orders holding in abeyance the appeals of both the NSPS and the CPP, pending EPA review. On August 21, 2018 the EPA proposed a replacement for the CPP -- the ACE Rule. Among other things, the ACE Rule determines that the best system of emission reduction for greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants are heat rate improvement measures, identifies a list of “candidate technologies” for improving a plant’s heat rate, and proposes changes to the New Source Review program. OTP submitted comments on the ACE Rule and it is anticipated that a final rule will be issued in 2019.

 

Several states and regional organizations have or will develop state-specific or regional legislative initiatives to reduce GHG emissions through mandatory programs. In 2007 the state of Minnesota passed legislation regarding renewable energy portfolio standards that requires retail electricity providers to obtain 25% of the electric energy sold to Minnesota customers from renewable sources by the year 2025. Additionally, in 2013 the state of Minnesota passed a provision that requires public utilities to generate or procure sufficient electricity generated by solar energy to serve its retail electricity customers in Minnesota so that by the end of 2020, at least 1.5% of the utility's total retail electric sales to retail customers in Minnesota is generated by solar energy. The Minnesota legislature set a January 1, 2008 deadline for the MPUC to establish an estimate of the likely range of costs of future CO2 regulation on electricity generation. The legislation also set state targets for reducing fossil fuel use, included goals for reducing the state's output of GHGs, and restricted importing electricity that would contribute to statewide power sector CO2 emission. The MPUC, in its order dated December 21, 2007, established an estimate of future CO2 regulation costs at between $4.00 per ton and $30.00 per ton emitted in 2012 and after. Annual updates of the range are required. For 2018 and 2019 the range is $5 to $25 per ton, and the applicable effective date to begin using CO2 costs in resource planning decisions is 2025.

 

In 2013, Minnesota opened a new docket to investigate the environmental and socioeconomic costs of externalities associated with electricity generation. This docket studied the impact of CO2 and certain criteria pollutants. The costs are updated periodically. The most recent order was issued on January 3, 2018. The environmental cost values for CO2 range from a low of $8.44 per ton and a high of $39.76 per ton in 2017 to a low of $15.20 per ton and a high of $69.48 per ton in 2050. Low, medium, and high values were also set for various criteria pollutants for rural, metropolitan fringe, and urban areas in the state.

 

The states of North Dakota and South Dakota currently have no proposed or pending legislation related to the regulation of GHG emissions, but North Dakota and South Dakota have 10% renewable energy objectives. OTP currently has sufficient renewable generation to meet the renewable energy objectives in both North Dakota and South Dakota.

 

While the eventual outcome of GHG regulation is unknown, OTP is taking steps to reduce its carbon footprint and mitigate levels of CO2 emitted in the process of generating electricity for its customers through the following initiatives:

 

 

Supply efficiency and reliability: Since 2005, SO2, NOx and mercury emitted from OTP’s fossil fuel-fired plants have decreased 42%, 69% and 80%, respectively. OTP’s efforts to increase plant efficiency and add renewable energy to its resource mix have reduced its CO2 intensity. Between 2005 and 2018 OTP decreased its overall system average CO2 emissions intensity by approximately 21%. Further reductions are expected with the planned addition of the Merricourt Wind Project and replacement of Hoot Lake Plant generation with the Astoria Station natural gas-fired generation plant in the 2021 timeframe.

 

 

Conservation: Since 1992 OTP has helped its customers conserve more than 4.7 million cumulative megawatt-hours of electricity, which is roughly equivalent to the amount of electricity that 398,500 average homes would use in a year and represents approximately 389% of the annual energy sales of OTP’s entire residential customer base.

 

 

Renewable energy: Since 2002, OTP’s customers have been able to purchase 100% of their electricity from wind generation through OTP’s Tail Winds program. OTP has access to 102.9 MW of wind powered generation under power purchase agreements and owns 138 MW of wind powered generation. Minnesota’s legislative mandate requires investor-owned utilities to serve 1.5% of their Minnesota retail electric sales with solar power by 2020. OTP has purchased sufficient SRECs to meet 100% of its 2020 obligation and approximately 70% of its 2021 obligation. OTP is exploring options for constructing a solar project to meet its continuing obligation after 2021.

 

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Other: OTP is a participating member of the EPA’s SF6 Emission Reduction Partnership for Electric Power Systems program, which proactively is targeting a reduction in emissions of SF6, a potent GHG. SF6 has a global-warming potential 23,900 times that of CO2. OTP participates in carbon sequestration research through the Plains CO2 Reduction Partnership through the University of North Dakota’s Energy and Environmental Research Center. This Partnership is a collaborative effort of approximately 100 public and private sector stakeholders working toward a better understanding of the technical and economic feasibility of capturing and storing anthropogenic CO2 emissions from stationary sources in central North America.

 

While the future financial impact of any proposed or pending litigation or regulation of GHG or other emissions is unknown at this time, any capital and operating costs incurred for additional pollution control equipment or emission reduction measures, such as the cost of sequestration or purchasing allowances, or offset credits, or the imposition of a carbon tax or cap and trade program at the state or federal level could materially adversely affect the Company’s future results of operations, cash flows, and possibly financial condition, unless such costs could be recovered through regulated rates and/or future market prices for energy.

 

Water Quality—The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, now known as the Clean Water Act, and amendments thereto, provide for, among other things, the imposition of effluent limitations to regulate discharges of pollutants, including thermal discharges, into the waters of the United States, and the EPA has established effluent guidelines for the steam electric power generating industry. Discharges must also comply with state water quality standards.

 

Effluent limits specific to Hoot Lake Plant and Coyote Station are incorporated into their National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits. Big Stone Plant is a zero-discharge facility and therefore does not have a NPDES permit. On November 3, 2015 the EPA published the final rule that sets technology-based effluent limitations on certain types of discharges. Generally, the final rule establishes new requirements for wastewater streams from wet flue gas desulfurization, fly ash transport, and bottom ash transport. This includes zero discharge requirements for fly ash and bottom ash transport water. OTP’s facilities either utilize dry ash handling or use transport water in a closed loop manner. Therefore, OTP anticipates minimal impact from the rule.

 

On May 9, 2014 the EPA Administrator signed a final rule implementing Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act establishing standards for cooling water intake structures for certain existing facilities. The final rule includes seven compliance options, plus a potential "de minimis" option that is not well defined. Although the impact of the Hoot Lake Plant intake structure has been extensively evaluated in two separate studies both of which showed minimal impact, OTP will need to have state agency discussions during the renewal of the Hoot Lake Plant NPDES permit to determine the appropriate path forward. Coyote Station’s NPDES permit was renewed in 2018 with minimal impact since Coyote Station already uses closed-cycle cooling. OTP has all federal and state water permits presently necessary for the operation of the Coyote Station, the Big Stone Plant and the Hoot Lake Plant.

 

OTP owns five small dams on the Otter Tail River, which are subject to FERC licensing requirements. A license for all five dams was issued on December 5, 1991. In June 2015 OTP notified the FERC of its intent to relicense these dams. The current FERC license expires in 2021 and the licensing process takes approximately 5 years. The FERC completed the scoping meeting in the fall of 2016 and issued a study plan determination in April 2017. OTP completed the first round of studies in 2017 and a second round in 2018. These studies will be followed by the filing of the license application in 2019. OTP expects the FERC to issue an order on the license application in 2021. Total nameplate rating (manufacturer’s expected output) of the five dams is 3,250 kW.

 

Solid Waste—Permits for disposal of ash and other solid wastes have been issued for the Coyote Station, the Big Stone Plant and the Hoot Lake Plant.

 

On December 19, 2014 the EPA announced a final rule regulating coal combustion residuals (CCR) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act regulating the disposal of coal ash generated from the combustion of coal by electric utilities under Subtitle D’s nonhazardous provisions. The rule has required OTP to complete certain actions, such as installing additional groundwater monitoring wells and investigating whether existing surface impoundments should be retired or retrofitted with liners. The Big Stone Plant surface impoundment was closed by removing all CCR material and replaced with new ash handling technology in 2018. A similar project is expected to be completed at Coyote Station in 2019. Existing landfill cells can continue to operate as designed, but future expansions may require composite liner and leachate collection systems. On December 20, 2016 the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act was signed into law. The WIIN Act allows states to regulate CCR if the state standards are at least as protective as the EPA CCR Rule. North Dakota and South Dakota have indicated they plan to incorporate the CCR rule, but that it will take a multi-year process.

 

At the request of the MPCA, OTP had an ongoing investigation at its former, closed Hoot Lake Plant ash disposal sites. The MPCA continues to monitor site activities under its Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program. OTP completed projects in 2014 through 2017 that removed the ash in its entirety from all four Voluntary Investigation and Cleanup Program areas and placed it in OTP’s permitted disposal area.

 

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In 1980 the United States enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, commonly known as CERCLA or the Federal Superfund law, which was reauthorized and amended in 1986. In 1983 Minnesota adopted the Minnesota Environmental Response and Liability Act, commonly known as the Minnesota Superfund law. In 1988 South Dakota enacted the Regulated Substance Discharges Act, commonly known as the South Dakota Superfund law. In 1989, North Dakota enacted the Environmental Emergency Cost Recovery Act. Among other requirements, the federal and state acts establish environmental response funds to pay for remedial actions associated with the release or threatened release of certain regulated substances into the environment. These federal and state Superfund laws also establish liability for cleanup costs and damage to the environment resulting from such release or threatened release of regulated substances. The Minnesota Superfund law also creates liability for personal injury and economic loss under certain circumstances. OTP has not incurred any significant costs to date related to these laws. OTP is not presently named as a potentially responsible party under the federal or state Superfund laws.

 

Capital Expenditures

 

In order to meet customer needs, OTP is continually expanding, replacing and improving its electric facilities. During 2018 approximately $87 million in cash was invested for additions and replacements to its electric utility properties. During the five years ended December 31, 2018 gross electric property additions, including CWIP, were approximately $635 million and gross retirements were approximately $90 million. OTP estimates that during the five-year period 2019-2023 it will invest approximately $973 million for electric construction, including:

 

 

$348 million for renewable wind and solar energy generation and conservation, including the Merricourt Wind Project scheduled for completion in 2020, the exercise of a purchase option on the Ashtabula III wind farm in 2022, a major investment in solar generation in 2022 and routine wind-power replacement projects.

 

 

$150 million for the Astoria natural gas-fired generation plant to replace Hoot Lake Plant capacity.

 

 

$145 million for numerous potential technology and infrastructure projects to transform future operations, including automated metering, telecommunications, geographic information systems, work and asset management systems, financial information systems, system infrastructure reliability improvements, outage management systems, and storage projects.

 

 

$122 million for transmission assets including new construction and routine replacement projects. New construction includes $7.8 million for the completion of the Big Stone South–Ellendale line in 2019.

 

The remaining $208 million of the 2019-2023 anticipated capital expenditures is for asset replacements, additions and improvements to OTP’s other generation, distribution and general plant. See “Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Capital Requirements” section for further discussion.

 

Franchises

 

At December 31, 2018 OTP had franchises to operate as an electric utility in substantially all of the incorporated municipalities it serves. All franchises are nonexclusive and generally were obtained for 20-year terms, with varying expiration dates. No franchises are required to serve unincorporated communities in any of the three states that OTP serves. OTP believes that its franchises will be renewed prior to expiration.

 

Employees

 

At December 31, 2018 OTP had 669 equivalent full-time employees. A total of 394 OTP employees are represented by local unions of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers under two separate contracts expiring on August 31, 2020 and October 31, 2020. OTP has not experienced any strike, work stoppage or strike vote, and considers its present relations with employees to be good.

 

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MANUFACTURING

 

General

 

Manufacturing consists of businesses engaged in the following activities: contract machining, metal parts stamping, fabrication and painting, and production of plastic thermoformed horticultural containers, life science and industrial packaging, and material handling components.

 

The Company derived 29%, 27% and 28% of its consolidated operating revenues and 14%, 11% and 11% of its consolidated operating income from the Manufacturing segment for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. Following is a brief description of each of these businesses:

 

BTD Manufacturing, Inc. (BTD), with headquarters located in Detroit Lakes, Minnesota, is a metal stamping and tool and die manufacturer that provides its services mainly to customers in the Midwest. BTD stamps, fabricates, welds, paints and laser cuts metal components according to manufacturers’ specifications primarily for the recreational vehicle, agricultural, oil and gas, lawn and garden, industrial equipment, health and fitness and enclosure industries in its facilities in Detroit Lakes and Lakeville, Minnesota, Washington, Illinois and Dawsonville, Georgia. BTD’s Illinois facility also manufactures and fabricates parts for off-road equipment, mining machinery, oil fields and offshore oil rigs, wind industry components, broadcast antennae and farm equipment. BTD-Georgia offers a wide range of metal fabrication services ranging from simple laser cutting services and high volume stamping to complex weldments and assemblies for metal fabrication buyers and original equipment manufacturers.

 

T.O. Plastics, Inc. (T.O. Plastics), located in Otsego and Clearwater, Minnesota, manufactures and sells thermoformed products for the horticulture industry throughout the United States. T.O. Plastics also designs and manufactures quality thermoformed products and packaging solutions for the medical and life sciences, industrial, recreation and electronics industries. Examples of products produced for these industries are clamshell packing, blister packs, returnable pallets and handling trays for shipping and storing odd-shaped or difficult-to-handle parts.

 

Product Distribution

 

The principal method for distribution of the manufacturing companies’ products is by direct shipment to the customer by common carrier ground transportation. No single customer or product of the Company’s manufacturing companies accounted for 10% of the Company’s consolidated revenue. However, the top two customers combined accounted for 33% and the top five customers combined accounted for over 52% of 2018 Manufacturing segment revenue.

 

Competition

 

The various markets in which the Manufacturing segment entities compete are characterized by intense competition from both foreign and domestic manufacturers. These markets have many established manufacturers with broader product lines, greater distribution capabilities, greater capital resources, excess capacity, labor advantages and larger marketing, research and development staffs and facilities than the Company’s manufacturing entities.

 

The Company believes the principal competitive factors in its Manufacturing segment are product performance, quality, price, technical innovation, cost effectiveness, customer service and breadth of product line. The Company’s manufacturing entities intend to continue to compete based on high-performance products, innovative production technologies, cost-effective manufacturing techniques, close customer relations and support, and increasing product offerings.

 

Raw Materials Supply

 

The companies in the Manufacturing segment use raw materials in the products they manufacture, including steel, aluminum and polystyrene and other plastics resins. Both pricing increases and availability of these raw materials are concerns of companies in the Manufacturing segment. The companies in the Manufacturing segment attempt to pass increases in the costs of these raw materials on to their customers. Increases in the costs of raw materials that cannot be passed on to customers could have a negative effect on profit margins in the Manufacturing segment. Additionally, a certain amount of residual material (scrap) is a by-product of the manufacturing and production processes used by the Company’s manufacturing companies. Declines in commodity prices for these scrap materials due to weakened demand or excess supply can negatively impact the profitability of the Company’s manufacturing companies as it reduces their ability to mitigate the cost associated with excess material.

 

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Backlog

 

The Manufacturing segment has backlog in place to support 2019 revenues of approximately $211 million compared with $166 million one year ago.

 

Capital Expenditures

 

Capital expenditures in the Manufacturing segment typically include additional investments in new manufacturing equipment or expenditures to replace worn-out manufacturing equipment. Capital expenditures may also be made for the purchase of land and buildings for plant expansion and for investments in management information systems. During 2018, cash expenditures for capital additions in the Manufacturing segment were approximately $13 million. Total capital expenditures for the Manufacturing segment during the five-year period 2019-2023 are estimated to be approximately $77 million.

 

Employees

 

At December 31, 2018 the Manufacturing segment had 1,445 full-time employees. There were 1,273 full-time employees at BTD and 172 full-time employees at T.O. Plastics as of December 31, 2018.

 

PLASTICS

 

General

 

Plastics consists of businesses producing PVC pipe at plants in North Dakota and Arizona. The Company derived 22%, 22% and 19% of its consolidated operating revenues and 25%, 22% and 16% of its consolidated operating income from the Plastics segment for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, respectively. Following is a brief description of these businesses:

 

Northern Pipe Products, Inc. (Northern Pipe), located in Fargo, North Dakota, manufactures and sells PVC pipe for municipal water, rural water, wastewater, storm drainage systems and other uses in the northern, midwestern, south-central and western regions of the United States as well as central and western Canada.

 

Vinyltech Corporation (Vinyltech), located in Phoenix, Arizona, manufactures and sells PVC pipe for municipal water, wastewater, water reclamation systems and other uses in the western, northwest and south-central regions of the United States.

 

Together these companies have the current capacity to produce approximately 300 million pounds of PVC pipe annually.

 

Customers

 

PVC pipe products are marketed through a combination of independent sales representatives, company salespersons and customer service representatives. Customers for the PVC pipe products consist primarily of wholesalers and distributors throughout the northern, midwestern, south-central, western and northwest United States. The principal method for distribution of the PVC pipe companies’ products is by common carrier ground transportation. No single customer of the PVC pipe companies accounts for over 10% of the Company’s consolidated revenue. However, two customers combined accounted for 39% of 2018 Plastics segment revenue.

 

Competition

 

The plastic pipe industry is fragmented and competitive due to the number of producers, the small number of raw material suppliers and the fungible nature of the product. Due to shipping costs, competition is usually regional, instead of national, in scope. The principal factors of competition are price, service, warranty, and product performance. Northern Pipe and Vinyltech compete not only against other plastic pipe manufacturers, but also ductile iron, steel and concrete pipe producers. Pricing pressure will continue to affect our Plastics segment operating margins in the future.

 

Northern Pipe and Vinyltech intend to continue to compete based on their high-quality products, cost-effective production techniques and close customer relations and support.

 

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Manufacturing and Resin Supply

 

PVC pipe is manufactured through a process known as extrusion. During the production process, PVC compound (a dry powder-like substance) is introduced into an extrusion machine, where it is heated to a molten state and then forced through a sizing apparatus to produce the pipe. The newly extruded pipe is then pulled through a series of water-cooling tanks, marked to identify the type of pipe and cut to finished lengths. Warehouse and outdoor storage facilities are used to store the finished product. Inventory is shipped from storage to distributors and customers by common carrier.

 

The PVC resins are acquired in bulk and shipped to point of use by rail car. There are three vendors that Northern Pipe and Vinyltech can source to supply their PVC resin requirements. Two vendors provided over 99% of total resin purchases in 2018 and 100% in 2017. The supply of PVC resin may also be limited primarily due to manufacturing capacity and the limited availability of raw material components. Most U.S. resin production plants are located in the Gulf Coast region, which is subject to risk of damage to the plants and potential shutdown of resin production because of exposure to hurricanes that occur in that part of the United States. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused major resin suppliers in the Gulf Coast region to shut down production facilities impacting raw material availability. The loss of a key vendor, or any interruption or delay in the supply of PVC resin, could disrupt the ability of the Plastics segment to manufacture products, cause customers to cancel orders or require incurrence of additional expenses to obtain PVC resin from alternative sources, if such sources were available. Both Northern Pipe and Vinyltech believe they have good relationships with their key raw material vendors.

 

Due to the commodity nature of PVC resin and PVC pipe and the dynamic supply and demand factors worldwide, historically the markets for both PVC resin and PVC pipe have been very cyclical with significant fluctuations in prices and gross margins.

 

Capital Expenditures

 

Capital expenditures in the Plastics segment typically include investments in extrusion machines and support equipment. During 2018, cash expenditures for capital additions in the Plastics segment were approximately $4 million. Total capital expenditures for the five-year period 2019-2023 are estimated to be approximately $20 million to replace existing equipment.

 

Employees

 

At December 31, 2018 the Plastics segment had 170 full-time employees. Northern Pipe had 100 full-time employees and Vinyltech had 70 full-time employees as of December 31, 2018.

 

 

Item 1A. RISK FACTORS

 

RISK FACTORS AND CAUTIONARY STATEMENTS

 

Our businesses are subject to various risks and uncertainties. Any of the risks described below or elsewhere in this Annual Report on Form 10-K or in our other SEC filings could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition and results of operations.

 

GENERAL

 

Federal and state environmental regulation could require us to incur substantial capital expenditures and increased operating costs.

 

We are subject to federal, state and local environmental laws and regulations relating to air quality, water quality, waste management, natural resources and health safety. These laws and regulations regulate the modification and operation of existing facilities, the construction and operation of new facilities and the proper storage, handling, cleanup and disposal of hazardous waste and toxic substances. Compliance with these legal requirements requires us to commit significant resources and funds toward environmental monitoring, installation and operation of pollution control equipment, payment of emission fees and securing environmental permits. Obtaining environmental permits can entail significant expense and cause substantial construction delays. Failure to comply with environmental laws and regulations, even if caused by factors beyond our control, may result in civil or criminal liabilities, penalties and fines. 

 

Existing environmental laws or regulations may be revised and new laws or regulations may be adopted or become applicable to us. Revised or additional regulations, which result in increased compliance costs or additional operating restrictions, particularly if those costs are not fully recoverable from customers, could have a material effect on our results of operations.

 

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Volatile financial markets and changes in our debt ratings could restrict our ability to access capital and increase borrowing costs and pension plan and postretirement health care expenses.

 

We rely on access to both short- and long-term capital markets as a source of liquidity for capital requirements not satisfied by cash flows from operations. If we are unable to access capital at competitive rates, our ability to implement our business plans may be adversely affected. Market disruptions or a downgrade of our credit ratings may increase the cost of borrowing or adversely affect our ability to access one or more financial markets.

 

Borrowings under our $130 million revolving credit agreement and OTP’s $170 million revolving credit agreement currently use LIBOR as the base to determine the applicable interest rate to charge. LIBOR is currently expected to be eliminated by January 1, 2022. The credit agreements contain provisions to determine how interest rates will be established in the event a replacement for LIBOR has not been identified before the agreements expire on October 31, 2023. There is no assurance that the replacement for LIBOR will be as favorable as LIBOR.

 

Disruptions, uncertainty or volatility in the financial markets can also adversely impact our results of operations, the ability of customers to finance purchases of goods and services, and our financial condition, as well as exert downward pressure on stock prices and/or limit our ability to sustain our current common stock dividend level.

 

Changes in the U.S. capital markets could also have significant effects on our pension plan. Our pension income or expense is affected by factors including the market performance of the assets in the master pension trust maintained for the pension plan for some of our employees, the weighted average asset allocation and long-term rate of return of our pension plan assets, the discount rate used to determine the service and interest cost components of our net periodic pension cost and assumed rates of increase in our employees’ future compensation. If our pension plan assets do not achieve positive rates of return, or if our estimates and assumed rates are not accurate, our earnings may decrease because net periodic pension costs would rise and we could be required to provide additional funds to cover our obligations to employees under the pension plan.

 

We could be required to contribute additional capital to the pension plan in the future if the market value of pension plan assets significantly declines, plan assets do not earn in line with our long-term rate of return assumptions or relief under the Pension Protection Act is no longer granted.

 

Any significant impairment of our goodwill would cause a decrease in our asset values and a reduction in our net operating income.

 

We had approximately $37.6 million of goodwill recorded on our consolidated balance sheet as of December 31, 2018. We have recorded goodwill for businesses in our Manufacturing and Plastics business segments. If we make changes in our business strategy or if market or other conditions adversely affect operations in any of these businesses, we may be forced to record an impairment charge, which would lead to decreased assets and a reduction in net operating performance. Goodwill is tested for impairment annually or whenever events or changes in circumstances indicate impairment may have occurred. If the testing performed indicates that impairment has occurred, we are required to record an impairment charge for the difference between the carrying amount of the goodwill and the implied fair value of the goodwill in the period the determination is made. The testing of goodwill for impairment requires us to make significant estimates about our future performance and cash flows, as well as other assumptions. These estimates can be affected by numerous factors, including changes in economic, industry or market conditions, changes in business operations, future business operating performance, changes in competition or changes in technologies. Any changes in key assumptions or actual performance compared with key assumptions about our business and its future prospects or other assumptions could affect the fair value of one or more business segments, which may result in an impairment charge. Declines in projected operating cash flows at BTD or the Plastics segment may result in goodwill impairments that could adversely affect our results of operations and financial position, as well as financing agreement covenants.

 

The inability of our subsidiaries to provide sufficient earnings and cash flows to allow us to meet our financial obligations and debt covenants and pay dividends to our shareholders could have an adverse effect on the Company.

 

Otter Tail Corporation is a holding company with no significant operations of its own. The primary source of funds for payment of our financial obligations and dividends to our shareholders is from cash provided by our subsidiary companies. Our ability to meet our financial obligations and pay dividends on our common stock principally depends on the actual and projected earnings, cash flows, capital requirements and general financial position of our subsidiary companies, as well as regulatory factors, financial covenants, general business conditions and other matters.

 

Under our $130 million revolving credit agreement we may not permit the ratio of our Interest-bearing Debt to Total Capitalization to be greater than 0.60 to 1.00. OTP may not permit the ratio of its Interest-bearing Debt to Total Capitalization to be greater than 0.60 to 1.00 under its $170 million revolving credit agreement. Both credit agreements contain restrictions on the payment of cash dividends on a default or event of default. As of December 31, 2018, we were in compliance with the debt covenants.

 

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Under the Federal Power Act, a public utility may not pay dividends from any funds properly included in a capital account. What constitutes “funds properly included in a capital account” is undefined in the Federal Power Act or the related regulations; however, the FERC has consistently interpreted the provision to allow dividends to be paid as long as (1) the source of the dividends is clearly disclosed, (2) the dividend is not excessive and (3) there is no self-dealing on the part of corporate officials. The MPUC indirectly limits the amount of dividends OTP can pay Otter Tail Corporation by requiring an equity-to-total-capitalization ratio between 47.9% and 58.5% based on OTP’s 2018 capital structure petition. OTP’s equity-to-total-capitalization ratio, including short-term debt, was 53.2% as of December 31, 2018.

 

While these restrictions are not expected to affect our ability to pay dividends at the current level in the foreseeable future, there is no assurance that adverse financial results would not reduce or eliminate our ability to pay dividends.

 

We rely on our information systems to conduct our business, and failure to protect these systems against security breaches or cyber-attacks could adversely affect our business and results of operations. Additionally, if these systems fail or become unavailable for any significant period, our business could be harmed.

 

The operation of our business is dependent on the secure function of our computer hardware and software systems. Furthermore, all our businesses require us to collect and maintain sensitive customer data, as well as confidential employee and shareholder information, which is subject to electronic theft or loss. We also use third-party vendors to electronically process certain of our business transactions. Information systems, both ours and those of third parties, are vulnerable to security breach by computer hackers and cyber terrorists, and the negligent or intentional breach of established controls and procedures or mismanagement of confidential information by employees. We may also be impacted by attacks and data security breaches of financial institutions, merchants or third-party processors. While we regularly conduct cybersecurity assessments, we cannot be certain our information security systems and protocols and those of our vendors and other third parties are sufficient to withstand a cyber-attack or other security breach.

 

The breach of certain business systems could affect our ability to correctly record, process and report financial information and transactions. A major cyber incident could result in significant expenses to investigate and repair security breaches or system damage and could lead to litigation, fines, other remedial action, heightened regulatory scrutiny and damage to our reputation. For example, we may be subject to liability under various federal, state and international data protections laws.

 

The misappropriation, corruption or loss of personally identifiable information and other confidential data could lead to significant monetary damages, regulatory enforcement actions and breach notification and mitigation expenses such as credit monitoring and result in reputational damage affecting relations with shareholders, customers and regulators. We have cybersecurity insurance related to a breach event covering expenses for notification, credit monitoring, investigation, crisis management, public relations and legal advice. The policy also provides coverage for regulatory action defense including fines and penalties, potential payment card industry fines and penalties and costs related to cyber extortion. We also maintain property and casualty insurance that may cover restoration of data, certain physical damage or third-party injuries caused by potential cybersecurity incidents. However, damage and claims arising from such incidents may not be covered or may exceed the amount of any insurance available.

 

We rely on industry accepted security measures and technology to securely maintain confidential and proprietary information maintained on our information systems. In an effort to reduce the likelihood and severity of cyber intrusions, we have cybersecurity processes and controls designed to protect and preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and systems and we have adopted a disaster recovery plan. Additionally, we’ve taken steps to increase cybersecurity awareness among our employees through mandatory education and training programs and through informational communications on potential security threats and techniques used by hackers and cyber criminals. However, all these measures and technology may not adequately prevent security breaches or cyber-attacks or enable us to recover effectively from such an attack. In addition, the unavailability of the information systems or failure of these systems to perform as anticipated for any reason could disrupt our business and could result in decreased performance and increased overhead costs, causing our business and results of operations to suffer. Any significant interruption or failure of our information systems or any significant breach of security due to cyber-attacks, hacking or internal security breaches could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

Like many other companies, we have been the target of malicious cyber-attack attempts in the normal course of business. Although these prior cyber-attacks have been limited in scope, have not interrupted our business operations and have not had a material impact on our financial results, this may not continue to be the case in the future. Cybersecurity incidents involving businesses and other institutions are on the rise, we believe these incidents are likely to continue and we are unable to predict the direct or indirect impact of future attacks or breaches to our business.

 

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Economic conditions could negatively impact our businesses.

 

Our businesses are affected by local, national and worldwide economic conditions. Tightening of credit in financial markets could adversely affect the ability of customers to finance purchases of our goods and services, resulting in decreased orders, cancelled or deferred orders, slower payment cycles, and increased bad debt and customer bankruptcies. Our businesses may also be adversely affected by decreases in the general level of economic activity, such as decreases in business and consumer spending. A decline in the level of economic activity and uncertainty regarding energy and commodity prices could adversely affect our results of operations and our future growth.

 

If we are unable to achieve the organic growth we expect, our financial performance may be adversely affected.

 

We expect much of our growth in the next few years will come from major capital investment at existing companies. To achieve the organic growth we expect, we must have access to the capital markets, be successful with capital expansion programs related to organic growth, develop new products and services, expand our markets and increase efficiencies in our businesses. Competitive and economic factors could adversely affect our ability to do this. If we are unable to achieve and sustain consistent organic growth, we will be less likely to meet our revenue growth targets, which, together with any resulting impact on our net income growth, may adversely affect the market price of our common shares.

 

Our plans to grow our businesses through capital projects, including infrastructure and new technology additions, or to grow or realign our businesses through acquisitions or dispositions may not be successful, which could result in poor financial performance.

 

As part of our business strategy, we intend to increase capital expenditures in our existing businesses and to continually assess our mix of businesses and potential strategic acquisitions or dispositions. There are risks associated with capital expenditures including not being granted timely or full recovery of rate base additions in our regulated utility business, the inability to recover the cost of capital additions due to an economic downturn, not being granted timely approval of requested interconnections to the transmission system for planned generation projects, lack of markets for new products, competition from producers of lower cost or alternative products, product defects, loss of customers or other factors. We may not be able to identify appropriate acquisition candidates or successfully negotiate, finance or integrate acquisitions. Future acquisitions could involve numerous risks including: difficulties in integrating the operations, services, products and personnel of the acquired business; and the potential loss of key employees, customers and suppliers of the acquired business. If we are unable to successfully manage these risks, we could face reductions in net income in future periods.

 

We may, from time to time, sell assets to provide capital to fund investments in our electric utility business or for other corporate purposes, which could result in the recognition of a loss on the sale of any assets sold and other potential liabilities. The sale of any of our businesses also exposes us to additional risks associated with indemnification obligations under the applicable sales agreements and any related disputes.

 

As part of our business strategy, we continually assess our business portfolio to determine if our operating companies continue to meet our portfolio criteria. A loss on the sale of a business would be recognized if a company is sold for less than its book value.

 

In certain transactions we retain obligations that have arisen, or subsequently arise, out of our conduct of the business prior to the sale. These obligations are sometimes direct or, in other cases, take the form of an indemnification obligation to the buyer. These obligations include such things as warranty, environmental, and the collection of certain receivables. Unforeseen costs related to these obligations could result in future losses related to the business sold.

 

Significant warranty claims and remediation costs in excess of amounts normally reserved for such items could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

 

Depending on the specific product or service, we may provide certain warranty terms against manufacturing defects and certain materials. We reserve for warranty claims based on industry experience and estimates made by management. For some of our products we have limited history on which to base our warranty estimate. Our assumptions could be materially different from any actual claim and could exceed reserve balances.

 

Expenses associated with the remediation of warranty claims for our manufacturing businesses, including our former wind tower manufacturer, could be substantial. The potential exists for multiple claims based on one defect repeated throughout the production process or for claims where the cost to repair or replace the defective part is highly disproportionate to the original cost of the part. If we are required to cover remediation expenses in addition to our regular warranty coverage, we could be required to accrue additional expenses and experience additional unplanned cash expenditures which could adversely affect our consolidated net income and financial condition.

 

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We are subject to risks associated with energy markets.

 

Our businesses are subject to the risks associated with energy markets, including market supply and increasing energy prices. If we are faced with shortages in market supply, we may be unable to fulfill our contractual obligations to our retail, wholesale and other customers at previously anticipated costs. This could force us to obtain alternative energy or fuel supplies at higher costs or suffer increased liability for unfulfilled contractual obligations. Any significantly higher than expected energy or fuel costs would negatively affect our financial performance.

 

Changes in tax laws, as well as judgments and estimates used in the determination of tax-related asset and liability amounts, could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Our provision for income taxes and reporting of tax-related assets and liabilities require significant judgments and the use of estimates. Amounts of tax-related assets and liabilities involve judgments and estimates of the timing and probability of recognition of income, deductions and tax credits, including, but not limited to, estimates for potential adverse outcomes regarding tax positions that have been taken and the ability to utilize tax benefit carryforwards, such as net operating loss and tax credit carryforwards. Actual income taxes could vary significantly from estimated amounts due to the future impacts of, among other things, changes in tax laws, regulations and interpretations, the financial condition and results of operations of the Company, and the resolution of audit issues raised by taxing authorities. Ultimate resolution of income tax matters may result in material adjustments to tax-related assets and liabilities, which could materially adversely affect our business, financial condition, results of operations and prospects.

 

Four of our operating companies have single customers that provide a significant portion of the individual operating company’s and the business segment’s revenue. The loss of, or significant reduction in revenue from, any one of these customers would have a significant negative financial impact on the operating company and its business segment and could have a significant negative financial impact on the Company.

 

While no single customer of the Company provides more than 10% of consolidated revenue, each of the Company’s segments have large customers that provide over 10% of the operating company’s and its segment’s revenue. In 2018 one customer accounted for 11% of Electric segment revenue, two customers accounted for a total of 33% of Manufacturing segment revenue and two customers accounted for 39% of Plastics segment revenue. The loss of any one of these customers, or a significant decline in sales to these customers, would have a significant negative impact on the operating company’s and its business segment’s financial position and results of operations, and could have a significant negative impact on the Company’s consolidated financial position and results of operations.

 

ELECTRIC

 

We may experience fluctuations in revenues and expenses related to our electric operations, which may cause our financial results to fluctuate and could impair our ability to make distributions to shareholders or scheduled payments on our debt obligations, or to meet covenants under our borrowing agreements.

 

Several factors, many of which are beyond our control, may contribute to fluctuations in our revenues and expenses from electric operations, causing our net income to fluctuate from period to period. These risks include fluctuations in the volume and price of sales of electricity to customers or other utilities, which may be affected by factors such as mergers and acquisitions of other utilities, geographic location of other utilities, transmission costs (including increased costs related to operations of regional transmission organizations), interconnection costs, changes in the manner in which wholesale power is sold and purchased, unplanned interruptions at OTP’s generating plants, the effects of regulation and legislation, demographic changes in OTP’s customer base and changes in OTP’s customer demand or load growth. Other risks include weather conditions or changes in weather patterns (including severe weather that could result in damage to OTP’s assets), fuel and purchased power costs and the rate of economic growth or decline in OTP’s service areas. A decrease in revenues or an increase in expenses related to our electric operations may reduce the amount of funds available for our existing and future utility business, which could result in increased financing requirements, impair our ability to make expected distributions to shareholders or impair our ability to make scheduled payments on our debt obligations, or to meet covenants under our borrowing agreements.

 

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Actions by the regulators of our electric operations could result in rate reductions, lower revenues and earnings or delays in recovering capital expenditures.

 

We are subject to federal and state legislation, government regulations and regulatory actions that may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations. The electric rates that OTP is allowed to charge for its electric services are one of the most important items influencing our financial position, results of operations and liquidity. The rates that OTP charges its electric customers are subject to review and determination by state public utility commissions in Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota. OTP is also regulated by the FERC. Our ability to obtain rate adjustments to maintain reasonable rates of return depends on regulatory action under applicable statutes and regulations and we cannot provide assurance that rate adjustments will be obtained or reasonable authorized rates of return on capital will be earned. OTP will file rate cases with, or seek cost recovery authorization from, federal and state regulatory authorities. An adverse decision by one or more regulatory commissions concerning the level or method of determining electric utility rates, the authorized returns on equity, implementation of enforceable federal reliability standards or other regulatory matters, permitted business activities (such as ownership or operation of nonelectric businesses) or any prolonged delay in rendering a decision in a rate or other proceeding (including with respect to the recovery of capital expenditures in rates) could result in lower revenues and net income.

 

OTP’s operations are subject to an extensive legal and regulatory framework under federal and state laws as well as regulations imposed by other organizations that may have a negative impact on our business and results of operations.

 

We are subject to an extensive legal and regulatory framework imposed under federal and state law and regulatory agencies, including FERC and NERC. We could be subject to potential financial penalties for compliance violations. Our transmission systems and electric generation facilities are subject to the NERC mandatory reliability standards, including cybersecurity standards. If a serious reliability incident did occur, it could have a material effect on our operations or financial results. Some states have the authority to impose substantial penalties in the event of non-compliance. We attempt to mitigate the risk of regulatory penalties through formal training. However, there is no guarantee our compliance program will be sufficient to ensure against violations.

 

In addition, energy policy initiatives at the state or federal level could increase incentives for distributed generation or authorize municipal utility formation or acquisition of service territory, or local initiatives could introduce generation or distribution requirements that could change the current integrated utility model.

 

These laws and regulations significantly influence our operations and may affect our ability to recover costs from our customers. We are required to have numerous permits, licenses, approvals and certificates from the agencies and other organizations that regulate our business. We believe we have obtained the necessary approvals for our existing operations and that our business is conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulatory requirements; however, we are unable to predict the impact on our operating results from the future regulatory activities of any of these agencies and other organizations. Changes in regulations or the imposition of additional regulations could have a material adverse impact on our results of operations.

 

OTP’s electric transmission and generation facilities could be vulnerable to cyber and physical attack that could impair our ability to provide electrical service to our customers or disrupt the U.S. bulk power system.

 

OTP owns electric transmission and generation facilities subject to mandatory and enforceable standards advanced by the NERC. These bulk electric system facilities provide the framework for the electrical infrastructure of OTP’s service territory and interconnected systems, the operation of which is dependent on information technology systems. Further, the information systems that operate OTP’s electric system are interconnected to external networks. Parties that wish to disrupt the U.S. bulk power system or OTP’s operations could view OTP’s computer systems, software or networks as attractive targets for cyber-attack.

 

In addition, OTP’s generation and transmission facilities are spread throughout a large service territory. These facilities could be subject to physical attack or vandalism that could disrupt OTP’s operations or conceivably the regional or U.S. bulk power system.

 

OTP is subject to mandatory cybersecurity and physical security regulatory requirements. OTP implements the NERC standards for operating its transmission and generation assets and stays abreast of best practices within business and the utility industry to protect its computers and computer-controlled systems from outside attack. We rely on industry accepted security measures and technology to securely maintain confidential and proprietary information necessary for the operation of our systems. In an effort to reduce the likelihood and severity of cyber intrusions, we have cybersecurity processes and controls and a disaster recovery plan designed to protect and preserve the confidentiality, integrity and availability of data and systems. We also take prudent and reasonable steps to protect the physical security of our generation and transmission facilities. FERC has approved Version 5 of the Critical Infrastructure Protection Cybersecurity Standards. The standards 

 

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require us to categorize our cyber assets as high, medium and low impact. As of December 31, 2018, all of these cyber assets were in compliance with the standard. However, all these measures and technology may not adequately prevent security breaches or cyber-attacks or enable us to recover effectively from such a breach or attack. Any significant interruption or failure of our information systems or any significant breach of security due to cyber-attacks, hacking or internal security breaches or physical attack of our generation or transmission facilities could adversely affect our business and results of operations.

 

Like many other companies, we have been the target of malicious cyber-attack attempts in the normal course of business. Although these prior cyber-attacks have been limited in scope, have not interrupted our business operations and have not had a material impact on our financial results, this may not continue to be the case in the future. Cybersecurity incidents involving businesses and other institutions are on the rise, we believe these incidents are likely to continue and we are unable to predict the direct or indirect impact of future attacks or breaches to our business.

 

OTP’s electric generating facilities are subject to operational risks that could result in unscheduled plant outages, unanticipated operation and maintenance expenses and increased power purchase costs.

 

Operation of electric generating facilities involves risks which can adversely affect energy output and efficiency levels. Most of OTP’s generating capacity is coal-fired. OTP relies on a limited number of suppliers of coal, making it vulnerable to increased prices for fuel as existing contracts expire or in the event of unanticipated interruptions in fuel supply. OTP is a captive rail shipper of the BNSF Railway for shipments of coal to its Big Stone and Hoot Lake plants, making it vulnerable to increased prices for coal transportation from a sole supplier and disruptions in coal deliveries due to rail line congestion and constraints on the rail lines between the coal source mines and the plants. Higher fuel prices result in higher electric rates for OTP’s retail customers through fuel clause adjustments and could make it less competitive in wholesale electric markets. Operational risks also include facility shutdowns due to breakdown or failure of equipment or processes, labor disputes, operator error and catastrophic events such as fires, explosions, floods, intentional acts of destruction or other similar occurrences affecting OTP’s electric generating facilities. The loss of a major generating facility would require OTP to find other sources of electricity for its customers, if available, and expose it to higher purchased power costs.

 

Changes to regulation of generating plant emissions, including but not limited to CO2 emissions and regional haze regulation under state implementation plans, could affect our operating costs and the costs of supplying electricity to our customers and the economic viability of continued operation of certain of OTP’s steam-powered electric plants.

 

Existing or new laws or regulations passed or issued by federal or state authorities addressing climate change or reductions of GHG emissions, such as mandated levels of renewable generation, mandatory reductions in CO2 emission levels, taxes on CO2 emissions or cap and trade regimes, could require us to incur significant new costs, which could negatively impact our net income, financial position and operating cash flows if such costs cannot be recovered through rates granted by ratemaking authorities in the states where OTP provides service or through increased market prices for electricity. Debate continues in Congress and in the current administration on the direction and scope of U.S. and international policy on climate change and regulation of GHGs. Congress has considered but has not adopted GHG legislation which would require a reduction in GHG emissions. The likelihood of any federal mandatory CO2 emissions reduction program being adopted by Congress in the near future, and the specific requirements of any such program, are uncertain, as are the future of additional regulatory actions.

 

Under the previous presidential administration, the EPA published final rules for the CPP, including NSPS regulations governing GHGs from new and existing fossil fuel-fired electric generating units and GHG performance and emissions standards for existing fossil fuel-fired power plants. The CPP rule is not currently in effect as a result of a stay by the U.S. Supreme Court granted in 2016. On August 21, 2018 the EPA proposed a replacement for the CPP the ACE Rule. Among other things, the ACE Rule determines the best system of emission reduction for greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power plants is to improve a plant’s heat rate, identifies a list of “candidate technologies” for improving a plant’s heat rate and proposes changes to the New Source Review program. The fate of the former administration’s GHG rules is uncertain, as is the outcome of EPA’s potential GHG regulatory actions under the current administration. The final outcome of this rulemaking process could have a material adverse impact on our business and financial results.

 

State implementation of pollution control plans to improve visibility and air quality at national parks under the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule could require us to incur significant new costs, which could negatively impact our net income, financial position and operating cash flows. The EPA is involved in ongoing litigation with states and regulated industries regarding the adequacy of state implementation plans. However, in September 2018, the EPA’s Regional Haze Reform Roadmap prioritized giving more power to states to determine emissions controls and relying on other Clean Air Act programs to improve visibility.

 

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In certain circumstances, it may not be economically viable to install and operate pollution control equipment at older generation facilities in order to bring them into compliance with environmental laws and regulations, including state implementation plans for the Regional Haze Rule. In those circumstances, it may be necessary to pursue replacement electric generation facilities as an alternative, which may require incurring significant investment in new facilities and recording significant asset impairment charges relating to replaced facilities, in addition to obtaining necessary regulatory permits and approvals.

 

MANUFACTURING

 

Competition from foreign and domestic manufacturers, the price and availability of raw materials, trade policy and tariffs affecting prices and markets for raw material and manufactured products, prices and supply of scrap or recyclable material and general economic conditions could affect the revenues and earnings of our manufacturing businesses.

 

Our manufacturing businesses are subject to intense risks associated with competition from foreign and domestic manufacturers, many of whom have broader product lines, greater distribution capabilities, greater capital resources, larger marketing, research and development staffs and facilities and other capabilities that may place downward pressure on margins and profitability. The companies in our Manufacturing segment use a variety of raw materials in the products they manufacture, including steel, aluminum and polystyrene and other plastics resins. Costs for these items can fluctuate significantly. If our manufacturing businesses are not able to pass on cost increases to their customers, it could have a negative effect on profit margins in our Manufacturing segment. Additionally, a certain amount of residual material (scrap) is a by-product of the manufacturing and production processes used by our manufacturing companies. Declines in commodity prices for these scrap materials due to weakened demand or excess supply, can negatively impact the profitability of our manufacturing companies as it reduces their ability to mitigate the cost associated with excess material. Changes in macroeconomic conditions can negatively impact demand in the end-use markets for products and parts that we manufacture, resulting in reduced sales and profits. There is no assurance the initiatives underway to increase revenues and improve margins at our manufacturing businesses will be successful.

 

PLASTICS

 

Our plastics operations are highly dependent on a limited number of vendors for PVC resin and a limited supply of PVC resin. The loss of a key vendor, or any interruption or delay in the supply of PVC resin, could result in reduced sales or increased costs for our plastics business.

 

We rely on a limited number of vendors to supply the PVC resin used in our plastics business. Two vendors provided over 99% of our total purchases of PVC resin in 2018 and 2017. In addition, the supply of PVC resin may be limited primarily due to manufacturing capacity and the limited availability of raw material components. Most U.S. resin production plants are located in the Gulf Coast region, which may increase the risk of a shortage of resin in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster in that region. The loss of a key vendor or any interruption or delay in the availability or supply of PVC resin could disrupt our ability to deliver our plastic products, cause customers to cancel orders or require us to incur additional expenses to obtain PVC resin from alternative sources, if such sources are available.

 

We compete against many other manufacturers of PVC pipe and manufacturers of alternative products. Customers may not distinguish our products from those of our competitors.

 

The plastic pipe industry is fragmented and competitive due to the number of producers and the fungible nature of the product. We compete not only against other plastic pipe manufacturers, but also against ductile iron, steel and concrete pipe manufacturers. Due to shipping costs, competition is usually regional instead of national in scope, and the principal areas of competition are a combination of price, service, warranty, and product performance. Our inability to compete effectively in each of these areas and to distinguish our plastic pipe products from competing products may adversely affect the financial performance of our plastics business.

 

Changes in PVC resin prices can negatively affect our plastics business.

 

The PVC pipe industry is highly sensitive to commodity raw material pricing volatility. Historically, when resin prices are rising or stable, margins and sales volume have been higher and when resin prices are falling, sales volumes and margins have been lower. Changes in PVC resin prices can negatively affect PVC pipe prices, profit margins on PVC pipe sales and the value of our finished goods inventory.

 

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Item 1B. UNRESOLVED STAFF COMMENTS

 

None.

 

 

Item 2.   PROPERTIES

 

The Coyote Station, which commenced operation in 1981, is a 414,000 kW (nameplate rating) mine-mouth plant located in the lignite coal fields near Beulah, North Dakota and is jointly owned by OTP, Northern Municipal Power Agency, Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. and Northwestern Public Service Company. OTP is the operating agent of the Coyote Station and owns 35% of the plant.

 

OTP, jointly with Northwestern Public Service Company and Montana-Dakota Utilities Co., owns the 414,000 kW (nameplate rating) Big Stone Plant in northeastern South Dakota which commenced operation in 1975. OTP is the operating agent of Big Stone Plant and owns 53.9% of the plant.

 

Located near Fergus Falls, Minnesota, the Hoot Lake Plant is comprised of two separate generating units: a unit built in 1959 (53,500 kW nameplate rating) and a unit added in 1964 (75,000 kW nameplate rating) and modified in 1988 to provide cycling capability, allowing this unit to be more efficiently brought online from a standby mode. These two generating units have a combined nameplate rating of 128,500 kW. Current plans are for both units to be retired from service in 2021.

 

OTP owns 27 wind turbines at the Langdon, North Dakota Wind Energy Center with a nameplate rating of 40,500 kW, 32 wind turbines at the Ashtabula Wind Energy Center located in Barnes County, North Dakota with a nameplate rating of 48,000 kW and 33 wind turbines at the Luverne Wind Farm located in Griggs and Steele Counties, North Dakota with a nameplate rating of 49,500 kW.

 

As of December 31, 2018, OTP’s transmission facilities, which are interconnected with lines of other public utilities, consisted of 618 pole-miles of jointly owned 345 kV lines; 470 pole-miles of 230 kV lines, of which 70 miles are jointly owned; 873 pole-miles of 115 kV lines; and 3,989 pole-miles of lower voltage lines, principally 41.6 kV. OTP owns the uprated portion of 48 pole-miles of the 345 kV lines, with Minnkota Power Cooperative retaining title to the original 230 kV construction, and OTP owns an undivided interest in the remaining 345 kV line miles. OTP is a joint owner, with other regional utilities, in transmission lines with the following ownership interests: 14.8% in the 70 mile Bemidji-Grand Rapids 230 kV line, approximately 14.2% of 242 pole-miles of energized line in the Fargo–Monticello 345 kV project, approximately 4.8% of 255 pole-miles of energized line in the Brookings to Southeast Twin Cities 345 kV project, and 50.0% of 72 pole-miles of energized line in the Big Stone South–Brookings 345 kV project.

 

In addition to the properties mentioned above, all of which are utilized by the Electric segment, the Company owns and has investments in offices and service buildings utilized by each of its manufacturing and plastic pipe companies. The Company’s subsidiaries own facilities and equipment used in: the manufacture of PVC pipe, thermoformed products, heavy metal fabricated products, metal parts stamping, fabricating, painting and contract machining.

 

Management of the Company believes the facilities and equipment described above are adequate for the Company's present businesses.

 

 

Item 3.   LEGAL PROCEEDINGS

 

The Company is the subject of various pending or threatened legal actions and proceedings in the ordinary course of its business. Such matters are subject to many uncertainties and to outcomes that are not predictable with assurance. The Company records a liability in its consolidated financial statements for costs related to claims, including future legal costs, settlements and judgments, where the Company has assessed that a loss is probable and an amount can be reasonably estimated. The Company believes the final resolution of currently pending or threatened legal actions and proceedings, either individually or in the aggregate, will not have a material adverse effect on its consolidated financial position, results of operations or cash flows. 

 

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Item 3A.     EXECUTIVE OFFICERS OF THE REGISTRANT (AS OF FEBRUARY 22, 2019)

 

Set forth below is a summary of the principal occupations and business experience during the past five years of the executive officers as defined by rules of the SEC. Each of the executive officers, excluding John Abbott, has been employed by the Company for more than five years in an executive or management position either with the Company or its wholly owned subsidiary, Otter Tail Power Company.

 

NAME AND AGE

DATE ELECTED

TO OFFICE

PRESENT POSITION AND BUSINESS EXPERIENCE

Charles S. MacFarlane (54)

4/13/15

Present:

President and Chief Executive Officer

Kevin G. Moug (59)

4/9/01

Present:

Chief Financial Officer and Senior Vice President

Timothy J. Rogelstad (52)

4/14/14

Present:

Senior Vice President, Electric Platform

John Abbott (60)

2/11/15

Present:

Senior Vice President, Manufacturing Platform

Jennifer O. Smestad (48)

1/1/18

Present:

Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary

 

Mr. MacFarlane was elected as the Company’s President and Chief Executive Officer and as member of the Company’s board of directors on April 13, 2015. Prior to that, he served as President and Chief Operating Officer of the Company, since April 14, 2014. Mr. MacFarlane joined OTP in 2001, served as its President from 2003 to 2014 and has served as its Chief Executive Officer from 2007 to the present. He served as Senior Vice President, Electric Platform of the Company from 2012 to 2014.

 

Kevin G. Moug has held his present positions with the Company for more than five years.

 

Timothy J. Rogelstad was appointed to succeed Mr. MacFarlane as President of OTP and Senior Vice President, Electric Platform of the Company on April 14, 2014. Mr. Rogelstad joined OTP in June 1989 as an engineer in the System Engineering Department and served as Supervisor, Transmission Planning, and Manager, Delivery Planning, before being named Vice President, Asset Management, in 2012. In the role of Vice President, Asset Management at OTP, he was in charge of OTP’s Delivery Planning, Delivery Maintenance, Delivery Engineering, System Operations, and Project Management Departments.

 

John Abbott was selected to serve as Senior Vice President, Manufacturing Platform, and President of Varistar on February 5, 2015. Prior to coming to the Company, Mr. Abbott served as an officer and group vice president for eight years at Standex International Corporation (Standex), a group of restaurant equipment companies. During his last five years at Standex, Mr. Abbott served as Group Vice President, Food Service Equipment Group. In this role, Mr. Abbott was responsible for all strategic and operational aspects of the Food Service Equipment business. Prior to working at Standex, Mr. Abbott was with Pentair for 20 years, rising from product manager to president and global business unit leader of its water filtration division.

 

Jennifer O. Smestad was appointed to the position of Vice President, General Counsel and Corporate Secretary of the Company, effective January 1, 2018. Ms. Smestad joined the Company on May 14, 2001 as an Associate General Counsel and has served in various legal capacities of increasing responsibility at the Company and at OTP. She most recently served as General Counsel for OTP from March 1, 2013 to the present.

 

The term of office for each of the executive officers is one year and any executive officer elected may be removed by the vote of the board of directors at any time during the term. There are no family relationships between any of the executive officers or directors.

 

 

Item 4.

Mine Safety Disclosures

 

Not Applicable. 

 

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PART II

 

Item 5.

MARKET FOR THE REGISTRANT'S COMMON EQUITY, RELATED STOCKHOLDER MATTERS AND ISSUER PURCHASES OF EQUITY SECURITIES

 

The Company’s common stock is traded on the Nasdaq Global Select Market under the Nasdaq symbol “OTTR”. The information required by this Item can be found on Page 39 of this Annual Report on Form 10-K under the heading “Selected Financial Data,” on Page 96 under the heading “Retained Earnings and Dividend Restriction” and on Page 117 under the heading “Supplementary Financial Information.” The Company does not have a publicly announced stock repurchase program. The Company did not repurchase any equity securities during the three months ended December 31, 2018. 

 

PERFORMANCE GRAPH

COMPARISON OF FIVE-YEAR CUMULATIVE TOTAL RETURN

 

This graph compares the cumulative total shareholder return on the Company’s common shares for the last five fiscal years with the cumulative return of The Nasdaq Stock Market Index and the Edison Electric Institute (EEI) Index over the same period (assuming the investment of $100 in each vehicle on December 31, 2013, and reinvestment of all dividends).

 

 

 

 

   

2013

   

2014

   

2015

   

2016

   

2017

   

2018

 

OTC

  $ 100.00     $ 110.19     $ 99.12     $ 157.67     $ 177.14     $ 203.60  

EEI

  $ 100.00     $ 128.91     $ 123.88     $ 145.48     $ 162.52     $ 168.49  

Nasdaq

  $ 100.00     $ 112.46     $ 113.00     $ 127.70     $ 155.01     $ 146.57  

 

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Item 6.        SELECTED FINANCIAL DATA

 

(thousands, except number of shareholders and per-share data)

 

2018

   

2017

   

2016

   

2015

   

2014

 

Revenues

                                       

Electric

                                       

Revenues from Contracts with Customers

  $ 450,694     $ 436,508     $ 425,279     $ 410,109     $ 406,242  

Changes in Accrued Revenues under Alternative Revenue Programs

    (439 )     (1,971 )     2,104       (2,978 )     1,501  

Total Electric Revenues

    450,255       434,537       427,383       407,131       407,743  

Manufacturing Revenues from Contracts with Customers

    268,409       229,738       221,289       215,011       219,583  

Plastics Revenues from Contracts with Customers

    197,840       185,132       154,901       157,758       172,050  

Intersegment Eliminations – Contracts with Customers

    (57 )     (57 )     (34 )     (96 )     (114 )

Total Operating Revenues

  $ 916,447     $ 849,350     $ 803,539     $ 779,804     $ 799,262  

Revenues from Contracts with Customers

  $ 916,886     $ 851,321     $ 801,435     $ 782,782     $ 797,761  

Net Income from Continuing Operations

  $ 82,345     $ 72,439     $ 62,321     $ 58,589     $ 56,883  

Net Income from Discontinued Operations

    --       --       --       756       840  

Net Income

  $ 82,345     $ 72,439     $ 62,321     $ 59,345     $ 57,723  

Operating Cash Flow from Continuing Operations

  $ 143,448     $ 173,577     $ 163,386     $ 131,540     $ 125,769  

Operating Cash Flow - Continuing and Discontinued Operations

    143,448       173,577       163,386       117,540       112,474  

Capital Expenditures - Continuing Operations

    105,425       132,913       161,259       160,084       163,582  

Total Assets

    2,052,517       2,004,278       1,912,385       1,818,683       1,738,116  

Long-Term Debt

    590,002       490,380       505,341       443,846       495,906  

Basic Earnings Per Share - Continuing Operations (1)

    2.08       1.84       1.62       1.56       1.56  

Basic Earnings Per Share - Total (1)

    2.08       1.84       1.62       1.58       1.58  

Diluted Earnings Per Share - Continuing Operations (1)

    2.06       1.82       1.61       1.56       1.55  

Diluted Earnings Per Share - Total (1)

    2.06       1.82       1.61       1.58       1.57  

Return on Average Common Equity (2)

    11.5 %     10.6 %     9.8 %     10.1 %     10.4 %

Dividends Per Common Share

    1.34       1.28       1.25       1.23       1.21  

Dividend Payout Ratio

    65 %     70 %     78 %     78 %     77 %

Common Shares Outstanding - Year End

    39,665       39,557       39,348       37,857       37,218  

Number of Common Shareholders (3)

    12,661       13,053       13,805       14,062       14,134  

(1) Based on average number of shares outstanding.

(2) Earnings available for common shares divided by the 13-month average of month-end common equity balances.

(3) Holders of record at year end.

 

 

Item 7.

MANAGEMENT'S DISCUSSION AND ANALYSIS OF FINANCIAL CONDITION AND RESULTS OF OPERATIONS

 

Overview

 

Otter Tail Corporation and its subsidiaries form a diverse group of businesses with operations classified into three segments: Electric, Manufacturing and Plastics. Our primary financial goals are to maximize earnings and cash flows and to allocate capital profitably toward growth opportunities that will increase shareholder value. Meeting these objectives enables us to preserve and enhance our financial capability by maintaining desired capitalization ratios and a strong interest coverage position and preserving investment grade credit ratings on outstanding securities, which, in the form of lower interest rates, benefits both our customers and shareholders.

 

Our strategy is to continue to grow our largest business, the regulated electric utility, which will lower our overall risk, create a more predictable earnings stream, improve our credit quality and preserve our ability to fund the dividend. Over time, we expect the electric utility business will provide approximately 75% to 85% of our overall earnings. We expect our manufacturing and plastic pipe businesses will provide 15% to 25% of our earnings and will continue to be a fundamental part of our strategy. The actual mix of earnings in 2018, 2017 and 2016 was 66%, 68% and 80%, respectively, from our electric utility business and 34%, 32% and 20%, respectively, from our manufacturing and plastic pipe businesses, including unallocated corporate costs.

 

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We expect that reliable utility performance along with rate base investment opportunities over the next five years will provide us with a strong base of revenues, earnings and cash flows. We also look to our manufacturing and plastic pipe companies to provide organic growth as well. Organic, internal growth comes from new products and services, market expansion and increased efficiencies. We expect much of our growth in these businesses in the next few years will come from utilizing expanded plant capacity from capital investments made in previous years. We will also evaluate opportunities to allocate capital to potential acquisitions in our Manufacturing and Plastics segments. We are a committed long-term owner and therefore we do not acquire companies in pursuit of short-term gains. However, we will divest operating companies that no longer fit into our strategy and risk profile over the long term.

 

Major growth strategies and initiatives in our future include:

 

 

Planned capital budget expenditures of approximately $1.1 billion for the years 2019 through 2023, of which $973 million are for capital projects at Otter Tail Power Company (OTP), including:

 

 

o

$348 million for renewable wind and solar energy generation and conservation, including the Merricourt Wind Project scheduled for completion in 2020, the exercise of a purchase option on the Ashtabula III wind farm in 2022, a major investment in solar generation in 2022 and routine wind-power replacement projects.

     
 

o

$150 million for the Astoria natural gas-fired generation plant to replace Hoot Lake Plant capacity.

     
 

o

$145 million for numerous potential technology and infrastructure projects to transform future operations, including automated metering, telecommunications, geographic information systems, work and asset management systems, financial information systems, system infrastructure reliability improvements, outage management systems, and storage projects.

     
 

o

$122 million for transmission assets including new construction and routine replacement projects. New construction includes $7.8 million for the completion of the Big Stone South–Ellendale line in 2019.

 

 

Continued investigation and evaluation of organic growth opportunities and evaluation of opportunities to allocate capital to potential acquisitions in our Manufacturing and Plastics segments.

 

In 2018:

 

 

Our Electric segment net income increased 10.1% to $54.4 million from $49.4 million in 2017.

     
 

Our Manufacturing segment net income increased 16.2% to $12.8 million from $11.1 million in 2017.

     
 

Our Plastics segment net income increased 9.8% to $23.8 million from $21.7 million in 2017.

     
 

Our net cash from continuing operations was $143.4 million.

     
 

Capital expenditures at OTP totaled $87.3 million as work continued toward completion on the Big Stone South–Ellendale Multi-Value Transmission Project (MVP).

     
 

OTP issued $100 million aggregate principal amount of its 4.07% Series 2018A Senior Unsecured Notes due February 7, 2048, using the proceeds to repay outstanding borrowings under the OTP Credit Agreement.

     
 

We decreased short-term borrowing by $93.8 million.

     
 

We paid out $53.2 million in common dividends in 2018.

 

The following table summarizes our consolidated results of operations for the years ended December 31:

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

2017

 

Operating Revenues:

               

Electric

  $ 450,198     $ 434,506  

Manufacturing

    268,409       229,712  

Plastics

    197,840       185,132  

Total Operating Revenues

  $ 916,447     $ 849,350  

Net Income (Loss):

               

Electric

  $ 54,431     $ 49,446  

Manufacturing

    12,839       11,050  

Plastics

    23,819       21,696  

Corporate

    (8,744 )     (9,753 )

Total Net Income

  $ 82,345     $ 72,439  

 

Revenues in each of our business segments increased in 2018 compared with 2017, driven by higher sales volume for the Electric and Manufacturing segments and higher margins for the Plastics segment.

 

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Manufacturing segment revenues increased $38.7 million (16.8%). Revenues at BTD Manufacturing, Inc. (BTD) increased $36.8 million, with revenue increases at all of BTD’s locations as a result of increased product sales across all end market categories. Included in the product sales are increased steel costs which are passed through to customers. Revenues at T.O. Plastics, Inc. (T.O. Plastics) increased $1.9 million due to increased sales of horticultural products. Electric segment revenues increased $15.7 million (3.6%) mainly due to a $13.3 million (3.6%) increase in retail sales revenue resulting from a 3.4% increase in retail kilowatt-hour (kwh) sales. The increase in electric revenue also included a $2.6 million (49.5%) increase in wholesale energy sales from OTP’s generating units. Plastics segment revenues increased $12.7 million (6.9%), mainly due to a 9.4% increase in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipe prices, partially offset by a 2.3% decrease in pounds of pipe sold. Higher sales volume in 2017 was mainly due to buying spurred by concerns of product shortages and production delays related to 2017 hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico.

 

A $12.7 million decrease in income tax expense in 2018 is mainly due to the decrease in the United States federal corporate income tax rate from 35% in 2017 to 21% in 2018 under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

 

The $9.9 million increase in net income in 2018 compared with 2017 reflects the following:

 

A $5.0 million increase in Electric segment net income from increased consumption due to favorable weather in 2018, and increases in interim rates, net of estimated refunds, in our North and South Dakota rate cases, partially offset by higher operating and maintenance expenses.

 

A $1.8 million increase in Manufacturing segment net income, mainly due to increased sales across almost all customer groups. Manufacturing segment net income was also impacted by the effect of the change in tax law under the TCJA.

 

A $2.1 million increase in Plastics segment net income was mainly due to higher pipe PVC prices and increased margins on pipe sales in 2018. Plastics segment net income was also impacted favorably by the effect of the change in tax law under the TCJA.

 

Corporate after-tax cost decreased $1.0 million in 2018. Corporate costs in 2017 included $7.2 million in additional tax expense due to the effect of the change in tax law under the TCJA. This was partially offset in 2018 primarily by increased charitable contributions and employee benefit costs.

 

As a result of the tax rate reduction included in the TCJA, deferred tax assets and liabilities were reduced in value in 2017. The impact by segment on 2017 income tax expense is summarized below:

 

(in thousands)

 

Decrease/(Increase)

 

Electric

  $ (458 )

Manufacturing

    2,637  

Plastics

    3,263  

Corporate

    (7,198 )

Total

  $ (1,756 )

 

Following is a more detailed analysis of our operating results by business segment for the years ended December 31, 2018, 2017 and 2016, followed by a discussion of our financial position at the end of 2018 and our outlook for 2019.

 

Results of Operations

 

This discussion and analysis should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and related notes. See note 2 to consolidated financial statements for a complete description of our lines of business, locations of operations and principal products and services.

 

Intersegment Eliminations—Amounts presented in the following segment tables for 2018, 2017 and 2016 operating revenues, cost of goods sold, and other nonelectric operating expenses will not agree with amounts presented in the consolidated statements of income due to the elimination of intersegment transactions. The amounts of intersegment eliminations by income statement line item are listed below:

 

Intersegment Eliminations (in thousands)

 

2018

   

2017

   

2016

 

Operating Revenues:

                       

Electric

  $ 57     $ 31     $ 34  

Product Sales

    --       26       --  

Cost of Products Sold

    21       18       6  

Other Nonelectric Expenses

    36       39       28  

 

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Electric

 

The following table summarizes the results of operations for our Electric segment for the years ended December 31:

 

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

%

change

   

2017

   

%

change

   

2016

 
Retail Sales Revenues from Contracts with Customers   $ 388,690       3     $ 376,902       1     $ 374,506  
Changes in Accrued Revenues under Alternative Revenue Programs     (439 )     78       (1,971 )     (194 )     2,104  

Total Retail Sales Revenue

  $ 388,251       4     $ 374,931       --     $ 376,610  

Wholesale Revenues – Company Generation

    7,735       50       5,173       13       4,584  

Other Revenues

    54,269       --       54,433       18       46,189  

Total Operating Revenues

  $ 450,255       4     $ 434,537       2     $ 427,383  

Production Fuel

    66,815       12       59,690       9       54,792  

Purchased Power – System Use

    68,355       5       64,807       3       63,226  

Other Operation and Maintenance Expenses

    155,534       6       146,914       --       147,274  

Depreciation and Amortization

    55,935       5       53,276       (1 )     53,743  

Property Taxes

    15,585       4       15,053       6       14,266  

Operating Income

  $ 88,031       (7 )   $ 94,797       1     $ 94,082  

Electric kilowatt-hour (kwh) Sales (in thousands)

                                       

Retail kwh Sales

    4,976,960       3       4,814,984       1       4,750,421  

Wholesale kwh Sales – Company Generation

    271,841       34       203,397       7       190,288  

Heating Degree Days

    6,904       16       5,931       12       5,314  

Cooling Degree Days

    567       49       380       (16 )     451  

 

The following table shows heating and cooling degree days as a percent of normal.

 

   

2018

   

2017

   

2016

 

Heating Degree Days

    111.0 %     93.9 %     84.1 %

Cooling Degree Days

    123.5 %     82.1 %     97.4 %

 

The following table summarizes the estimated effect on diluted earnings per share of the difference in retail kwh sales under actual weather conditions and expected retail kwh sales under normal weather conditions in 2018, 2017 and 2016, and between years.

 

   

2018 vs

Normal

   

2018 vs

2017

   

2017 vs

Normal

   

2017 vs

2016

   

2016 vs

Normal

 

Effect on Diluted Earnings Per Share

  $ 0.07     $ 0.11     $ (0.04 )   $ 0.03     $ (0.07 )

 

2018 Compared with 2017

The $13.3 million increase in retail revenue includes:

 

 

A $7.6 million increase in revenue related to the recovery of increased fuel and purchased power costs. The increase in fuel and purchase power costs was driven by a 3.4% increase in kwhs sold, combined with an increase in higher-cost purchased power in the fourth quarter of 2018 to provide replacement power during a nine-week scheduled fall maintenance outage at Big Stone Plant. The revenue increase was also driven by a $1.9 million reduction in estimated unbilled fuel revenues recorded in the fourth quarter of 2017.

 

 

A $6.3 million increase related to increased consumption due to colder and warmer weather in 2018 compared with 2017, evidenced by a 16.4% increase in heating-degree days and 49.2% increase in cooling degree days between the years.

 

 

A $5.7 million increase, net of an estimated refund, related to an interim rate increase implemented in January 2018 in conjunction with OTP’s 2017 general rate increase request in North Dakota.

 

 

A $4.2 million increase in North Dakota and Minnesota Renewable Resource Adjustment (RRA) rider revenues related to the expiration of federal production tax credit (PTC) eligibility on one of OTP’s wind farms.

 

 

A $2.8 million increase in Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program (MNCIP) cost recovery revenues and incentives.

 

 

A $0.7 million increase related to an interim rate increase implemented in October 2018 in conjunction with OTP’s 2018 general rate increase request in South Dakota.

 

partially offset by:

 

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A $9.6 million reduction in revenues for the provision of refunds related to the recovery of federal income taxes in current retail electric rates in our state jurisdictions and under Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved transmission tariffs that are in excess of lower federal income taxes under the TCJA.

 

 

A $2.5 million decrease in North Dakota Environmental Cost Recovery (ECR) rider revenues due to a reduction in the return on equity component of the North Dakota rider from 10.75% in 2017 to 9.77% in 2018, lower federal taxes being recovered through the riders and a lower investment balance for environmental upgrades due to depreciation.

 

 

A $1.9 million reduction in North Dakota and South Dakota Transmission Cost Recovery (TCR) rider revenues related to a reduction in transmission costs, including lower federal income taxes under the TCJA.

 

Wholesale electric revenues increased $2.6 million due to a 33.7% increase in wholesale kwh sales and an 11.9% increase in wholesale electric prices. Increased demand and higher wholesale prices provided greater opportunity for wholesale energy sales and economic dispatch of OTP’s generating units in 2018 compared with 2017.

 

Production fuel costs increased $7.1 million, due to a 26.9% increase in kwhs generated from OTP’s fuel-burning plants to provide electricity for the increases in retail and wholesale demand driven by colder weather in the first four months and the last three months of 2018 and warmer weather from May through September 2018 compared with the same periods in 2017.

 

The cost of purchased power to serve retail customers increased $3.5 million. The cost per kwhs purchased increased by 16.1% while kwhs purchased decreased 9.2%. Increased system demand lead to the increase in cost per kwh purchased. Increased generation from company-owned generating units driven by higher market prices for electricity contributed to the decrease in kwhs purchased between the years.

 

Electric operating and maintenance expenses increased $8.6 million due to:

 

 

A $2.9 million increase in Big Stone Plant contracted maintenance expenses related to its 2018 nine-week scheduled fall maintenance outage.

 

 

A $2.4 million increase in conservation program spending.

 

 

A $1.9 million increase in benefit and other labor-related costs.

 

 

A $1.0 million increase in donations due to increased community giving in 2018 and to an irrevocable commitment of $0.5 million to fund OTP’s charitable foundation established in 2018.

 

 

A $0.4 million increase in other operating and maintenance expense.

 

Depreciation expense increased $2.7 million mainly due to the Big Stone South-Brookings transmission line being placed in service in September 2017 and to increased investments in other transmission assets.

 

Property tax expense increased $0.5 million in 2018 related to increased investments in our electric plant in service.

 

2017 Compared with 2016

The $1.7 million decrease in retail electric revenue includes:

 

 

A $5.3 million increase in retail revenue related to the recovery of increased fuel and purchased power costs due to a 1.4% increase in kwhs sold and a 4.8% increase in fuel and purchased power costs per kwh.

 

 

A $4.2 million increase in Minnesota base rate revenue mainly due to the transfer of recovery of environmental and transmission costs and investments from riders to base rates.

 

 

A $2.0 million increase in revenues due to increased consumption related to colder weather in 2017 reflected in the 11.6% increase in heating degree days between the years.

 

 

A $1.0 million increase in North Dakota TCR rider revenues as a result of increased investment in transmission assets qualifying for revenue recovery through the TCR rider.

 

more than offset by:

 

 

A $7.1 million reduction in Minnesota ECR rider and TCR rider revenues due to the transfer of recovery of qualifying costs from rider recovery into base rates, and due to declining revenue requirements related to lower asset values due to accumulated depreciation. Additionally, a lower return on equity in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, Inc. (MISO) transmission tariff related to complaints currently under judicial review resulted in lower TCR revenues in Minnesota.

 

 

A $3.7 million decrease in MNCIP incentive and cost recovery revenues related to a $2.5 million reduction in incentives earned due to lower incentive rates and a $1.2 million reduction in spending on MNCIP programs. In 2017 OTP began operating under a new MNCIP program that was authorized by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. This new program lowered the incentive payout by 50% in 2017. The $1.2 million reduction in spending was due to a delay in regulatory approval for the implementation of an LED streetlight project.

 

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A $1.9 million decrease in revenue due to a change in estimate that reduced unbilled revenues.

 

 

A $1.5 million decrease in North Dakota and South Dakota ECR rider revenues resulting from lower values on qualifying assets due to accumulated depreciation.

 

The $0.6 million increase in revenue from wholesale electric sales from company-owned generation was mostly offset by a $0.4 million increase in fuel costs for wholesale generation.

 

The $8.2 million increase in other electric revenues includes:

 

 

A $7.8 million increase in MISO transmission tariff revenues, mainly driven by increased investment in regional transmission lines and revenues earned from the use of those lines by other electric service providers.

 

 

A $0.4 million increase in other revenues, mainly steam sales at Big Stone Plant.

 

Production fuel costs increased $4.9 million due to a 4.0% increase in kwhs generated. This was due to increase generation from Coyote Station and Hoot Lake Plant because of Coyote Station’s greater availability, increased demand due to colder weather in 2017 and higher market prices for electricity that resulted in increased dispatch of Hoot Lake Plant.

 

The cost of purchased power to serve retail customers increased $1.6 million despite a 3.4% decrease in kwhs purchased. This was a result of higher market prices for electricity driven by increased demand in 2017 due, in part, to colder weather in 2017 than in 2016.

 

Electric operating and maintenance expenses decreased $0.4 million due to:

 

 

A $1.2 million decrease in transmission expenditures to independent system operators in 2017.

 

 

A $1.2 million decrease in MNCIP expenditures due to a delay in regulatory approval of an LED streetlight project planned for 2017.

 

 

A $0.7 million net reduction in other operating expenses.

 

mostly offset by:

 

 

A $2.7 million increase in labor and benefit costs due to increased wages and higher medical benefit payments.

 

Depreciation and amortization expense decreased $0.5 million due to lower depreciation rates.

 

Property tax expense increased $0.8 million mainly due to transmission line additions in South Dakota related to the construction of the Big Stone South–Ellendale and Big Stone South–Brookings 345-kiloVolt (kV) transmission projects.

 

Manufacturing

 

The following table summarizes the results of operations for our Manufacturing segment for the years ended December 31:

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

%

change 

   

2017

   

%

change 

   

2016

 

Operating Revenues

  $ 268,409       17     $ 229,738       4     $ 221,289  

Cost of Products Sold

    205,699       17       176,473       3       171,732  

Other Operating Expenses

    29,650       25       23,785       8       21,994  

Depreciation and Amortization

    14,794       (4 )     15,379       (3 )     15,794  

Operating Income

  $ 18,266       30     $ 14,101       20     $ 11,769  

 

2018 Compared with 2017

The $38.7 million increase in revenues in our Manufacturing segment includes the following:

 

 

Revenues at BTD increased $36.8 million, including increases of $33.8 million in parts revenue, including increased sales of $9.4 million to manufacturers of agricultural equipment, $7.8 million to manufacturers of recreational vehicles, $7.5 million to manufacturers of construction equipment, $4.6 million to manufacturers of industrial equipment, and $3.1 million to manufacturers of lawn and garden equipment. Included in the parts revenue increases is the pass through of higher material costs of $12.7 million, with the remaining increase due to higher sales volume and a $1.5 million increase in pricing unrelated to material cost increases. Revenues from scrap metal sales increased $2.3 million due to higher scrap volume from increased production and an 11% increase in scrap metal pricing.

 

 

Revenues at T.O. Plastics increased $1.9 million due to a $3.1 million increase in sales of horticultural containers, partially offset by decreases in sales of industrial and life sciences products totaling $1.2 million.

 

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The $29.2 million increase in cost of products sold in our Manufacturing segment includes the following:

 

 

Cost of products sold at BTD increased $27.8 million due to increased sales volume and the $12.7 million in higher material costs.

 

 

Cost of products sold at T.O. Plastics increased $1.4 million related to the increase in product sales and higher labor and freight costs.

 

The $5.9 million increase in operating expenses in our Manufacturing segment includes the following:

 

 

Operating expenses at BTD increased $5.3 million because of the following:

 

 

o

A $2.2 million increase in short-term incentives.

 

 

o

A $2.0 million increase in labor, benefit and recruiting expenses due to hiring more employees.

 

 

o

A $1.1 million increase in other administrative and general expenses.

 

 

Operating expenses at T.O. Plastics increased $0.6 million, mainly due to increases in labor and benefit expenses due to hiring more employees.

 

The $0.6 million decrease in depreciation in our Manufacturing segment includes decreases of $0.4 million at BTD related to reductions in stored tooling amortization and $0.2 million at T.O. Plastics due to certain manufacturing equipment being fully depreciated in 2018.

 

2017 Compared with 2016

The $8.4 million increase in revenues in our Manufacturing segment in 2017 compared with 2016 relates to the following:

 

 

Revenues at BTD increased $5.9 million. This is due to a $3.3 million increase in product sales to manufacturers of recreational and lawn and garden equipment from BTD’s Minnesota and Georgia manufacturing facilities, partially offset by lower sales in the energy end-use market at the Illinois facility. Scrap revenues increased $2.6 million due to increased volume and higher scrap-metal prices.

 

 

Revenues at T.O. Plastics increased $2.5 million, including increases of $1.3 million from sales of life science products, $1.0 million from sales of horticultural products and $0.2 million from sales of industrial products.

 

The $4.7 million increase in cost of products sold in our Manufacturing segment includes the following:

 

 

Cost of products sold at BTD increased $2.3 million because of the increase in product sales.

 

 

Costs of products sold at T.O. Plastics increased $2.4 million due to the increase in sales.

 

The $1.8 million increase in Manufacturing segment operating expenses includes the following:

 

 

Operating expenses at BTD increased $1.9 million because of the following:

 

 

o

A $0.7 million increase in labor and benefit costs because of an increase in employees in a growing business.

 

 

o

A $0.4 million increase in contracted service expenditures for consulting, software and telecommunications in response to increased business needs.

 

 

o

A $0.4 million increase in property taxes.

 

 

o

A $0.4 million increase in insurance costs.

 

 

Operating expenses at T.O. Plastics decreased $0.1 million between the years.

 

The $0.4 million decrease in depreciation in our Manufacturing segment includes decreases of $0.3 million at T.O. Plastics due to certain assets reaching the ends of their depreciable lives in 2017. Depreciation expense at BTD decreased $0.1 million year over year.

 

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Plastics

 

The following table summarizes the results of operations for our Plastics segment for the years ended December 31:

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

%

change

   

2017

   

%

change

   

2016

 

Operating Revenues

  $ 197,840       7     $ 185,132       20     $ 154,901  

Cost of Products Sold

    148,881       6       140,107       13       123,496  

Other Operating Expenses

    12,323       7       11,564       23       9,402  

Depreciation and Amortization

    3,719       (3 )     3,817       (1 )     3,861  

Operating Income

  $ 32,917       11     $ 29,644       63     $ 18,142  

 

2018 Compared with 2017

Plastics segment revenues increased $12.7 million due to a 9.4% increase in PVC pipe prices on a 2.3% decrease in pounds of pipe sold. Cost of products sold increased $8.8 million, despite the 2.3% decrease in sales volume, due to an 8.8% increase in the cost per pound of pipe sold. The increase in pipe prices in excess of the increase in cost per pound of pipe sold resulted in an 11.3% increase in gross margin per pound of PVC pipe sold. Plastics segment operating expenses increased by $0.8 million mainly due to an increase in property maintenance costs, sales commissions and other selling and administrative costs.

 

Hurricane Harvey had a significant impact on market conditions from September through December 2017. Pounds of PVC pipe sold was lower in the last four months of 2018 compared with the same period in 2017. This was due to increased sales and pricing resulting from 2017 hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region of the United States where the majority of U.S. resin production plants are located. Major resin suppliers shut down production facilities which impacted raw material availability. This created pipe-availability concerns among distributors and contractors, accelerating pipe demand and favorably impacting our diluted earnings by an estimated $0.09 per share in 2017.

 

2017 Compared with 2016

Plastics segment revenues increased $30.2 million as a result of a 7.2% increase in pounds of PVC pipe sold and an 11.5% increase in PVC pipe prices between the years. Reaction to the hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region of the United States resulted in an estimated $12.5 million increase in revenues. Year over year improvement in normal business operations provided for the remainder of the revenue increase, along with increased prices. The $16.6 million increase in Plastics segment costs of product sold was due to the increase in sales volume and a 5.9% increase in the cost per pound of PVC pipe sold. The $2.2 million increase in operating expenses is mostly due to employee incentive pay related to the pipe companies’ stronger financial results compared with 2016.

 

The PVC pipe industry is highly sensitive to commodity raw material pricing volatility. Historically, when resin prices are rising or stable, margins and sales volume have been higher and when resin prices are falling, sales volumes and margins have been lower.

 

Corporate

 

Corporate includes items such as corporate staff and overhead costs, the results of our captive insurance company and other items excluded from the measurement of operating segment performance. Corporate is not an operating segment. Rather, it is added to operating segment totals to reconcile to totals on our consolidated statements of income.

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

%

change

   

2017

   

%

change

   

2016

 

Other Operating Expenses

  $ 9,607       55     $ 6,182       (15 )   $ 7,315  

Depreciation and Amortization

    218       199       73       55       47  

 

Corporate operating expenses increased $3.4 million in 2018 as compared to 2017 due to the following:

 

 

A $1.7 million increase in charitable contributions due to an irrevocable commitment to fund Otter Tail Corporation’s charitable foundation established in 2018.

 

 

A $1.7 million increase in employee benefit costs.

 

Corporate operating expenses decreased $1.1 million in 2017 as compared to 2016 mainly due to a $0.6 million increase in the level of corporate costs allocated to the corporation’s operating companies and a $0.5 million reduction in labor costs due to a reduction in the number of corporate employees.

 

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Consolidated Interest Charges

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

%

change

   

2017

   

%

change

   

2016

 

Interest Charges

  $ 30,408       3     $ 29,604       (7 )   $ 31,886  

 

The $0.8 million increase in interest charges in 2018 compared with 2017 is related to OTP’s February 2018 issuance of $100 million in privately placed 4.07% Senior Unsecured Notes due February 7, 2048 (2018 Notes). Interest expense of $3.6 million in 2018 on the 2018 Notes was mostly offset by:

 

 

A $1.4 million reduction in long-term debt interest expense related to the retirement of OTP’s $33.0 million outstanding 5.95%, Series A Senior Unsecured Notes at maturity on August 20, 2017 and the August 2017 early retirement of the remaining $15 million balance on our $50 million term loan term due February 5, 2018.

 

 

A $0.9 million reduction in short-term debt interest mainly related to the paydown of OTP’s short-term debt outstanding on February 7, 2018 with proceeds from the 2018 Notes.

 

 

A $0.5 million increase in capitalized interest in 2018.

 

The $2.3 million decrease in interest charges in 2017 compared with 2016 is related to lower cost debt resulting from the issuance of $80.0 million of our 3.55% Guaranteed Senior Notes and the retirement of our remaining $52.3 million outstanding 9.000% Notes in December 2016 and the retirement of OTP’s $33.0 million outstanding 5.95%, Series A Senior Unsecured Notes at maturity on August 20, 2017. The average level of debt outstanding between the periods increased by approximately $13.0 million with lower cost short-term debt being issued to retire higher cost long-term debt and being used to fund a portion of OTP’s 2017 capital expenditures.

 

Consolidated OTHER INCOME

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

%

change

   

2017

   

%

change

   

2016

 

Other Income

  $ 3,461       31     $ 2,632       (9 )   $ 2,905  

 

Other income increased $0.8 million in 2018 compared with 2017 mainly because of a $1.2 million increase in OTP’s allowance for equity funds used during construction (AFUDC) partially offset by a $0.5 million decrease in cash surrender values from corporate-owned life insurance.

 

Other income decreased $0.3 million in 2017 compared with 2016, mainly because of the receipt of $0.7 million in nontaxable corporate-owned life insurance proceeds in 2016 while no similar proceeds were received in 2017, partially offset by an increase in the cash surrender value of the life insurance policies in 2017 that was $0.3 million more than the increase in the cash surrender value in 2016.

 

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Consolidated Income Taxes

 

Income tax expense was $14.6 million in 2018 compared with $27.3 million in 2017 and $20.2 million in 2016. Income tax expense decreased $12.7 million in 2018 compared with 2017, mainly due to the decrease in the federal corporate income tax rate from 35% in 2017 to 21% in 2018 under the TCJA. Income tax expense increased $7.0 million in 2017 compared with 2016 mainly because of a $17.2 million increase in income before income taxes.

 

The following table provides a reconciliation of income tax expense calculated at the federal statutory rate on income before income taxes reported on our consolidated statements of income:

 

   

For the Year Ended December 31,

 

(in thousands)

 

2018

   

2017

   

2016

 

Income Before Income Taxes

  $ 96,933     $ 99,695     $ 82,540  

Tax Computed at Company’s Net Composite Federal and State Statutory Rate (21% for 2018, 35% for 2017 and 2016)

  $ 20,356     $ 34,893     $ 28,889  

Increases (Decreases) in Tax from:

                       

State Income Taxes Net of Federal Income Tax Expense

    5,210       4,368       2,869  

Differences Reversing in Excess of Federal Rates

    (3,432 )     551       77  

Federal PTCs

    (3,111 )     (7,527 )     (7,175 )

Permanent Differences, R&D Tax Credits, Unitary Tax and Other Adjustments

    (1,864 )     (1,873 )     (1,262 )

North Dakota Wind Tax Credit Amortization – Net of Federal Taxes

    (1,033 )     (850 )     (850 )

Excess Tax Deduction – Stock Compensation Awards

    (708 )     (751 )     --  

AFUDC – Equity

    (431 )     (322 )     (280 )

Employee Stock Ownership Plan Dividend Deduction

    (298 )     (509 )     (537 )

Investment Tax Credit Amortization

    (98 )     (164 )     (350 )

Corporate-owned Life Insurance

    (3 )     (845 )     (680 )

Section 199 Domestic Production Activities Deduction

    --       (1,471 )     (482 )

Effect of TCJA Tax Rate Reduction on Value of Net Deferred Tax Assets

    --       1,756       --  

Total Income Tax Expense

  $ 14,588     $ 27,256     $ 20,219  

Effective Income Tax Rate

    15.0 %     27.3 %     24.5 %

 

Federal PTCs are recognized as wind energy is generated based on a per kwh rate prescribed in applicable federal statutes. OTP’s kwh generation from its wind turbines eligible for PTCs decreased 53.0% in 2018 compared with 2017 due to the PTC eligibility period ending for one of OTP’s wind farms. OTP’s kwh generation from its wind turbines eligible for PTCs increased 4.4% in 2017 compared with 2016 due to improved availability of the turbines and more favorable wind and operating conditions in 2017. North Dakota wind energy credits are based on dollars invested in qualifying facilities and are being recognized on a straight-line basis over 25 years.

 

Impact of Inflation

 

OTP operates under regulatory provisions that allow price changes in fuel and certain purchased power costs to be passed to most retail customers through automatic adjustments to its rate schedules under fuel clause adjustments. Other increases in the cost of electric service must be recovered through timely filings for electric rate increases with the appropriate regulatory agency.

 

Our Manufacturing and Plastics segments consist entirely of businesses whose revenues are not subject to regulation by ratemaking authorities. Increased operating costs are reflected in product or services pricing with any limitations on price increases determined by the marketplace. Raw material costs, labor costs, fuel and energy costs and interest rates are important components of costs for companies in these segments. Any or all of these components could be impacted by inflation or other pricing pressures, with a possible adverse effect on our profitability, especially where increases in these costs exceed price increases on finished products. In recent years, our operating companies have faced strong inflationary and other pricing pressures with respect to steel, fuel, resin, and health care costs, which have been partially mitigated by pricing adjustments.

 

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Liquidity

 

The following table presents the status of our lines of credit as of December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2017:

 

(in thousands)

 

Line Limit

   

In Use on

December 31,

2018

   

Restricted due to

Outstanding

Letters of Credit

   

Available on

December 31,

2018

   

Available on

December 31,

2017

 

Otter Tail Corporation Credit Agreement

  $ 130,000     $ 9,215     $ --     $ 120,785     $ 130,000  

OTP Credit Agreement

    170,000       9,384       300       160,316       57,329  

Total

  $ 300,000     $ 18,599     $ 300     $ 281,101     $ 187,329  

 

We believe we have the necessary liquidity to effectively conduct business operations for an extended period if needed. Our balance sheet is strong, and we are in compliance with our debt covenants. Financial flexibility is provided by operating cash flows, unused lines of credit, strong financial coverages, investment grade credit ratings and alternative financing arrangements such as leasing.

 

We believe our financial condition is strong and our cash, other liquid assets, operating cash flows, existing lines of credit, access to capital markets and borrowing ability because of investment-grade credit ratings, when taken together, provide adequate resources to fund ongoing operating requirements and future capital expenditures related to expansion of existing businesses and development of new projects. On May 3, 2018 we filed a shelf registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) under which we may offer for sale, from time to time, either separately or together in any combination, equity, debt or other securities described in the shelf registration statement, which expires on May 3, 2021. On May 3, 2018, we also filed a shelf registration statement with the SEC for the issuance of up to 1,500,000 common shares until May 3, 2021, under our Automatic Dividend Reinvestment and Share Purchase Plan (the Plan), which permits shares purchased by participants in the Plan to be either new issue common shares or common shares purchased in the open market. On May 1, 2018 our Distribution Agreement with J.P. Morgan Securities, LLC (JPMS) for our At-the-Market Offering Program ended as required under the agreement. No shares were issued under this program in 2018.

 

Equity or debt financing will be required in the period 2019 through 2023 given plans to fund construction of new rate base investments to expand our Electric segment. Also, such financing will be required should we decide to reduce borrowings under our lines of credit or refund or retire early any of our presently outstanding debt, to complete acquisitions or for other corporate purposes. Our operating cash flows and access to capital markets can be impacted by macroeconomic factors outside our control. In addition, our borrowing costs can be impacted by changing interest rates on short-term and long-term debt and ratings assigned to us by independent rating agencies, which in part are based on certain credit measures such as interest coverage and leverage ratios.

 

The determination of the amount of future cash dividends to be declared and paid will depend on, among other things, our financial condition, improvement in earnings per share, cash flows from operations, the level of our capital expenditures and our future business prospects. As a result of certain statutory limitations or regulatory or financing agreements, restrictions could occur on the amount of distributions allowed to be made by our subsidiaries. See note 7 to consolidated financial statements for more information. The decision to declare a dividend is reviewed quarterly by the board of directors. On February 5, 2019 our board of directors increased the quarterly dividend from $0.335 to $0.35 per common share.

 

2018 Cash Flows Compared with 2017 Cash Flows

Net cash provided by operating activities was $143.4 million in 2018 compared with net cash provided by operating activities of $173.6 million in 2017. Primary reasons for the $30.2 million decrease in net cash provided by operations between the periods were:

 

 

A $9.9 million increase in net income.

 

 

A $2.1 million increase in depreciation and amortization expense.

 

 

A $1.5 million decrease in cash used for working capital items.

 

more than offset by:

 

 

A $20.0 million increase in discretionary contributions to the corporation’s funded pension plan.

 

 

A $2.4 million decrease in noncurrent liabilities and deferred credits in 2018 compared with a $19.3 million increase in 2017. The change was primarily driven by an increase in the discount rates used to value pension and other postretirement benefit liabilities.

 

 

A $4.8 million reduction in the level of increases in deferred tax liabilities related to the lower federal income tax rate under the TCJA.

 

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Net cash used in investing activities was $107.4 million in 2018 compared with $132.6 million in 2017. The $25.2 million decrease in cash used for investing activities includes a $27.5 million decrease in capital expenditures, mainly due to a $31.2 million reduction in cash used for capital expenditures at OTP as the Big Stone South–Brookings 345 kiloVolt (kV) transmission line project, placed in service September 2017, was under construction during the first nine months of 2017. OTP capital work on the Big Stone South–Ellendale 345-kV transmission line project and on a major project to replace its customer information system was winding down toward the end of 2018. OTP implemented its new customer information system in February 2019. Cash used for capital expenditures at BTD increased $3.4 million between periods mainly due to the addition of manufacturing equipment to add capabilities and expand capacity at all of BTD’s manufacturing plants. Corporate capital expenditures increased $0.5 million between periods for leasehold improvements and office equipment purchased in 2018 in connection with an April 2018 office move. The decrease in cash used for capital expenditures was partially offset by a $2.1 million decrease in proceeds from the disposal of noncurrent assets reflecting $1.5 million in proceeds in 2017 from the sale of property by OTP with no similar transaction in 2018 and a $0.6 million reduction in proceeds from the sale of investments by our captive insurance company, Otter Tail Assurance Limited.

 

Net cash used in financing activities was $51.4 million in 2018 compared with $24.8 million in 2017. Financing activities in 2018 included proceeds from the issuance of $100 million of 2018 Notes, which were used to pay down a portion of borrowings then outstanding under the OTP Credit Agreement. Financing activities in 2018 also included the distribution of $53.2 million in common dividend payments. (See discussion below on cash used for financing activities in 2017.)

 

2017 Cash Flows Compared with 2016 Cash Flows

The $10.2 million increase in cash provided by operating activities between the years includes a $10.1 million increase in net income and a $10.0 million reduction in discretionary contributions to our pension plan. Changes in long-term assets and liabilities, including deferred taxes, totaling $17.4 million were more than offset by a $26.9 million increase in cash used for working capital items. The increase in cash used for working capital between the periods is primarily due to a $19.1 million increase in cash used for payables and other current liabilities between the years at OTP related to the timing of payments, as cash use decreased $10.3 million in 2016 compared to an increase of $8.8 million in cash used for payables and other current liabilities in 2017. Cash used for inventories increased $6.2 million between the years primarily due to increased levels of inventory in each of our business segments.

 

Net cash used in investing activities was $132.6 million in 2017 compared with $159.3 million in 2016. The $26.7 million decrease in cash used for investing activities includes a $28.3 million decrease in cash used for capital expenditures partially offset by $1.5 million in acquisition purchase price adjustments. The decrease in cash used for capital expenditures is mainly due to a $31.2 million reduction in cash used for capital expenditures at OTP as work concluded on the Big Stone South–Brookings 345 kV transmission line project which was energized in September 2017. Capital expenditures increased $2.8 million in our Manufacturing and Plastics segments.

 

Net cash used in financing activities was $24.8 million in 2017 compared with $4.1 million in 2016. Financing activities in 2017 included a $69.5 million increase in net short-term borrowings under OTP’s credit agreement, of which $33.0 million was used to redeem OTP’s 5.95% Senior Unsecured Series A Notes which matured on August 20, 2017. The additional short-term borrowings were used to fund a portion of OTP’s 2017 capital expenditures. Operating cash flows from our Manufacturing and Plastic’s segments were used to repay an additional $15.2 million in long-term debt related to those operations. Financing activities in 2017 also included $2.4 million from an increase in checks written in excess of cash and $4.3 million in net proceeds from the issuance of common stock under our automatic dividend reinvestment and share purchase plan, partially offset by $1.8 million in stock repurchases related to tax withholding requirements for stock incentive awards. See note 5 to the consolidated financial statements for further information on stock issuances and retirements in 2017. We paid common stock dividends of $50.6 million in 2017 compared with $48.2 million in 2016.

 

  

 

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Capital Requirements

 

Capital Expenditures

We have a capital expenditure program for expanding, upgrading and improving our plants and operating equipment. Typical uses of cash for capital expenditures are investments in electric generation facilities and environmental upgrades, transmission and distribution lines, manufacturing facilities and upgrades, equipment used in the manufacturing process, and computer hardware and information systems. The capital expenditure program is subject to review and is revised in light of changes in demands for energy, technology, environmental laws, regulatory changes, business expansion opportunities, the costs of labor, materials and equipment and our consolidated financial condition.

 

Cash used for consolidated capital expenditures was $105.4 million in 2018, $132.9 million in 2017 and $161.3 million in 2016. Estimated capital expenditures for 2019 are $203 million. Total capital expenditures for the five-year period 2019 through 2023 are estimated to be approximately $1.1 billion, including:

 

 

$348 million for renewable wind and solar energy generation and conservation, including the Merricourt Wind Project scheduled for completion in 2020, the exercise of a purchase option on the Ashtabula III wind farm in 2022, a major investment in solar generation in 2022 and routine wind-power replacement projects.

 

 

$150 million for the Astoria natural gas-fired generation plant to replace Hoot Lake Plant capacity.

 

 

$145 million for numerous potential technology and infrastructure projects to transform future operations, including automated metering, telecommunications, geographic information systems, work and asset management systems, financial information systems, system infrastructure reliability improvements, outage management systems, and storage projects.

 

 

$122 million for transmission assets including new construction and routine replacement projects. New construction includes $7.8 million for the completion of the Big Stone South–Ellendale line in 2019.

 

The breakdown of 2016, 2017 and 2018 actual cash used for capital expenditures and 2019 through 2023 estimated capital expenditures by segment is as follows:

 

(in millions)

 

2016

   

2017

   

2018

   

2019

   

2020

   

2021

   

2022

   

2023

     2019-2023  

Electric

  $ 150     $ 119     $ 87     $ 183     $ 393     $ 120     $ 177     $ 100     $ 973  

Manufacturing

    8       10       13       15       14       14       19       15       77  

Plastics

    3       4       4       5       4       3       4       4       20  

Corporate

    --       --       1       --       --       --       --       --       --  

Total

  $ 161     $ 133     $ 105     $ 203     $ 411     $ 137     $ 200     $ 119     $ 1,070  

 

Contractual Obligations

The following table summarizes our contractual obligations at December 31, 2018 and the effect these obligations are expected to have on our liquidity and cash flow in future periods.

 

(in millions)

 

Total

   

Less than

1 Year

   

1-3

Years

   

3-5

Years

   

More than

5 Years

 

Coal Contracts

  $ 619     $ 23     $ 46     $ 47     $ 503  

Debt Obligations

    592       --       140       30       422  

Interest on Debt Obligations

    398       28       58       42       270  

Capacity and Energy Requirements

    230       25       38       24       143  

Postretirement Benefit Obligations

    111       6       12       14       79  

Other Purchase Obligations (including land easements)

    80       44       27       1       8  

Operating Lease Obligations

    31       6       11       7       7  

Total Contractual Cash Obligations

  $ 2,061     $ 132     $ 332     $ 165     $ 1,432  

 

Coal contract obligations are based on estimated coal consumption and costs for the delivery of coal to Coyote Station from Coyote Creek Mining Company under the lignite sales agreement that ends in 2040, except for $1.0 million in purchase obligations in 2019 at Big Stone Plant. Postretirement Benefit Obligations include estimated cash expenditures for the payment of retiree medical and life insurance benefits and supplemental pension benefits under our unfunded Executive Survivor and Supplemental Retirement Plan, but do not include amounts to fund our noncontributory funded pension plan, as we are not currently required to make a contribution to that plan.

 

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CAPITAL RESOURCES

 

Financial flexibility is provided by operating cash flows, unused lines of credit, strong financial coverages, investment grade credit ratings, and alternative financing arrangements such as leasing. Equity or debt financing will be required in the period 2019 through 2023 given the expansion plans related to our Electric segment to fund construction of new rate base and transmission investments, in the event we decide to reduce borrowings under our lines of credit, to refund or retire early any of our presently outstanding debt, to complete acquisitions or for other corporate purposes. There can be no assurance that any additional required financing will be available through bank borrowings, debt or equity financing or otherwise, or that if such financing is available, it will be available on terms acceptable to us. If adequate funds are not available on acceptable terms, our businesses, results of operations and financial condition could be adversely affected.

 

On May 3, 2018 we filed a shelf registration statement with the SEC under which we may offer for sale, from time to time, either separately or together in any combination, equity, debt or other securities described in the shelf registration statement, which expires on May 3, 2021. On May 3, 2018 we also filed a shelf registration statement with the SEC for the issuance of up to 1,500,000 common shares under our Automatic Dividend Reinvestment and Share Purchase Plan (the Plan), which permits shares purchased by participants in the Plan to be either new issue common shares or common shares purchased in the open market. The shelf registration for the Plan expires on May 3, 2021. On May 1, 2018 our Distribution Agreement with JPMS for our At-the-Market Offering Program ended.

 

Short-Term Debt

 

The following table presents the status of our lines of credit as of December 31, 2018 and December 31, 2017:

 

(in thousands)

 

Line Limit

   

In Use on

December 31,

2018

   

Restricted due to

Outstanding

Letters of Credit

   

Available on

December 31,

2018

   

Available on

December 31,

2017

 

Otter Tail Corporation Credit Agreement

  $ 130,000     $ 9,215     $ --     $ 120,785     $ 130,000  

OTP Credit Agreement

    170,000       9,384       300       160,316       57,329  

Total

  $ 300,000     $ 18,599     $ 300     $ 281,101     $ 187,329  

 

Under the Otter Tail Corporation Credit Agreement (OTC Credit Agreement) (as defined below), the maximum amount of debt outstanding in 2018 was $17.7 million on September 17, 2018 and the average daily balance of debt outstanding during 2018 was $5.5 million. The weighted average interest rate paid on debt outstanding under the OTC Credit Agreement during 2018 was 3.8% compared with 2.8% in 2017. Under the OTP Credit Agreement (as defined below), the maximum amount of debt outstanding in 2018 was $122.0 million on January 16, 2018 and the average daily balance of debt outstanding during 2018 was $21.6 million. The weighted average interest rate paid on debt outstanding under the OTP Credit Agreement during 2018 was 3.0% compared with 2.4% in 2017. The maximum amount of consolidated short-term debt outstanding in 2018 was $122.0 million on January 16, 2018 and the average daily balance of consolidated short-term debt outstanding during 2018 was $27.1 million. The weighted average interest rate on consolidated short-term debt outstanding on December 31, 2018 was 3.9%.

 

On October 29, 2012 we entered into a Third Amended and Restated Credit Agreement (the OTC Credit Agreement), which is an unsecured $130 million revolving credit facility that may be increased to $250 million on the terms and subject to the conditions described in the OTC Credit Agreement. On October 31, 2018 the OTC Credit Agreement was amended to extend its expiration date by one year from October 31, 2022 to October 31, 2023. We can draw on this credit facility to refinance certain indebtedness and support our operations and the operations of certain of our subsidiaries. Borrowings under the OTC Credit Agreement bear interest at LIBOR plus 1.50%, subject to adjustment based on our senior unsecured credit ratings or the issuer rating if a rating is not provided for the senior unsecured credit. We are required to pay commitment fees based on the average daily unused amount available to be drawn under the revolving credit facility. The OTC Credit Agreement contains a number of restrictions on us and the businesses of our wholly owned subsidiary, Varistar Corporation and its subsidiaries, including restrictions on our and their ability to merge, sell assets, make investments, create or incur liens on assets, guarantee the obligations of certain other parties and engage in transactions with related parties. The OTC Credit Agreement also contains affirmative covenants and events of default, and financial covenants as described below under the heading “Financial Covenants.” The OTC Credit Agreement does not include provisions for the termination of the agreement or the acceleration of repayment of amounts outstanding due to changes in our credit ratings. Our obligations under the OTC Credit Agreement are guaranteed by certain of our subsidiaries. Outstanding letters of credit issued by us under the OTC Credit Agreement can reduce the amount available for borrowing under the line by up to $40 million.

 

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On October 29, 2012 OTP entered into a Second Amended and Restated Credit Agreement (the OTP Credit Agreement), providing for an unsecured $170 million revolving credit facility that may be increased to $250 million on the terms and subject to the conditions described in the OTP Credit Agreement. On October 31, 2018 the OTP Credit Agreement was amended to extend its expiration date by one year from October 31, 2022 to October 31, 2023. OTP can draw on this credit facility to support the working capital needs and other capital requirements of its operations, including letters of credit in an aggregate amount not to exceed $50 million outstanding at any time. Borrowings under this line of credit bear interest at LIBOR plus 1.25%, subject to adjustment based on the ratings of OTP’s senior unsecured debt or the issuer rating if a rating is not provided for the senior unsecured debt. OTP is required to pay commitment fees based on the average daily unused amount available to be drawn under the revolving credit facility. The OTP Credit Agreement contains a number of restrictions on the business of OTP, including restrictions on its ability to merge, sell assets, make investments, create or incur liens on assets, guarantee the obligations of any other party, and engage in transactions with related parties. The OTP Credit Agreement also contains affirmative covenants and events of default, and financial covenants as described below under the heading “Financial Covenants.” The OTP Credit Agreement does not include provisions for the termination of the agreement or the acceleration of repayment of amounts outstanding due to changes in OTP’s credit ratings. OTP’s obligations under the OTP Credit Agreement are not guaranteed by any other party.

 

Both the OTC Credit Agreement and the OTP Credit Agreement currently expire on October 31, 2023. Borrowings under these agreements currently use LIBOR as the base to determine the applicable interest rate. LIBOR is currently expected to be eliminated by January 1, 2022. Both agreements contain a provision to determine how interest rates will be established in the event a replacement for LIBOR has not been identified before the agreement expires. The process calls for the parties to jointly agree on an alternate rate of interest to LIBOR, such as the Secured Overnight Financing Rate, that gives due consideration to prevailing market convention for determining a rate of interest for syndicated loans in the United States at such time. The parties will enter into amendments to these agreements to reflect any alternate rate of interest and other related changes to the agreements as may be applicable. If for any reason an agreement cannot be reached on an alternate rate of interest, then any borrowings under the agreements will be determined using the Prime Rate plus a margin based on the Company’s and OTP’s Long-Term Debt Ratings at the time of the borrowings. If the alternate rate of interest agreed to by the parties is less than zero, such rate shall be deemed to be zero for the purposes of the credit agreement.

 

Long-Term Debt

 

2018 Note Purchase Agreement

On November 14, 2017, OTP entered into a Note Purchase Agreement (the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement) with the purchasers named therein, pursuant to which OTP agreed to issue to the purchasers, in a private placement transaction, $100 million aggregate principal amount of OTP’s 4.07% Series 2018A Senior Unsecured Notes due February 7, 2048 (the 2018 Notes). The 2018 Notes were issued on February 7, 2018. Proceeds from the 2018 Notes were used to repay outstanding borrowings under the OTP Credit Agreement.

 

OTP may prepay all or any part of the 2018 Notes (in an amount not less than 10% of the aggregate principal amount of the Notes then outstanding in the case of a partial prepayment) at 100% of the principal amount so prepaid, together with unpaid accrued interest and a make-whole amount; provided that if no default or event of default exists under the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement, any prepayment made by OTP of all of the 2018 Notes then outstanding on or after August 7, 2047 will be made without any make-whole amount. The 2018 Note Purchase Agreement also requires OTP to offer to prepay all outstanding 2018 Notes at 100% of the principal amount together with unpaid accrued interest in the event of a Change of Control (as defined in the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement) of OTP.

 

The 2018 Note Purchase Agreement contains a number of restrictions on the business of OTP. These include restrictions on OTP’s abilities to merge, sell assets, create or incur liens on assets, guarantee the obligations of any other party, and engage in transactions with related parties. The 2018 Note Purchase Agreement also contains other negative covenants and events of default, as well as certain financial covenants as described below under the heading “Financial Covenants.” The 2018 Note Purchase Agreement does not include provisions for the termination of the agreement or the acceleration of repayment of amounts outstanding due to changes in OTP’s credit ratings. The 2018 Note Purchase Agreement includes a “most favored lender” provision generally requiring that in the event the OTP Credit Agreement or any renewal, extension or replacement thereof, at any time contains any financial covenant or other provision providing for limitations on interest expense and such a covenant is not contained in the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement under substantially similar terms or would be more beneficial to the holders of the 2018 Notes than any analogous provision contained in the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement (an Additional Covenant), then unless waived by the Required Holders (as defined in the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement), the Additional Covenant will be deemed to be incorporated into the 2018 Note Purchase Agreement. The 2018 Note Purchase Agreement also provides for the amendment, modification or deletion of an Additional Covenant if such Additional Covenant is amended or modified under or deleted from the OTP Credit Agreement, provided that no default or event of default has occurred and is continuing.

 

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