October 25, 2017 Read More →

Skepticism Persists Over Claims by Owners That They Have Buyers Lined Up for Failing Coal Plant in Arizona

Bloomberg News:

The biggest coal-fired power plant west of the Mississippi is up for sale, but market watchers say they’re not convinced anyone is serious about buying it.

That skepticism comes despite statements from the Salt River Project, which co-owns the Navajo Generating Station in Page, Ariz., that they’ve signed 14 non-disclosure agreements with potential buyers. Some analysts aren’t convinced the 14 are serious bidders.

Others, however, say President Donald Trump’s pro-coal policies could help the plant get sold.

Fourteen potential buyers “is an extraordinary number,” Tom Sanzillo, finance director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, told Bloomberg Environment. “Fourteen and 15 buyers is what you get when a solar company goes bankrupt, because there’s so much value there.”

That’s not true of coal because power prices from natural gas and renewables are so low, said Jeremy Fisher, a principal associate with research firm Synapse Energy Economics Inc.

“If you’re an investor thinking about picking up a plant on the cheap, you look at your long-term prospects for being able to make money,” Fisher told Bloomberg Environment. “Until we see something that fundamentally changes the market structures, I don’t think we’re seeing much of a change.”

Seth Schwartz, president of consultancy Energy Ventures Analysis, said that moves such as Trump’s could inspire confidence among investors for coal. But he also said he doesn’t see that happening yet.

“The market probably still views the new administration’s actions as preliminary, or at least unsettled,” Schwartz told Bloomberg Environment. “They’re still subject to litigation. So I’m not sure that investors are ready to act on those initiatives right now. But some individual investors may take a contrarian position, thinking their odds have improved.”

Scott Harelson, an SRP spokesman, told Bloomberg Environment that the 14 interested parties are researching the plant and its economics, including its budgets, union contracts, and maintenance. SRP has no sense of the parties’ level of interest, Harelson said. The company did not say who the 14 parties were.

Similarly, Beth Sutton, a Peabody Energy spokeswoman, told Bloomberg Environment earlier this month that “a number of private equity firms and power plant operators…have expressed interest in moving to the next phase in the process,” but that those parties are “understandably subject to confidentiality agreements.”

More: Doubts Hover Over Sale of Massive Navajo Coal Plant

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