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Chad Ryan | The Journal Gazette
Nick Akins, chairman, president and CEO of AEP, addresses the crowd at the utility’s annual shareholders meeting Tuesday at Grand Wayne Center.

City hosts AEP meeting

Utility, investors discuss financial, closure concerns

American Electric Power told investors the company is on firm financial footing, even as it moves to diversify its energy sources to depend less on coal.

The Columbus, Ohio-based utility hosted its annual shareholders meeting Tuesday at Grand Wayne Center in Fort Wayne.

About 50 investors and company employees attended the half-hour session.

President and CEO Nick Akins presided over the meeting and praised the company as one of the largest electric utilities in the nation, delivering electricity to more than 5.3 million customers in 11 states. AEP has an electricity transmission network that covers more than 40,000 miles – the largest in the nation.

Akins said the company, which employs 1,179 in Indiana, continues to prepare for the shutdown of the Tanners Creek Plant in Lawrenceburg. Akins has said the decision to retire the coal facility by mid-2015 was partly triggered by environmental compliance costs and market conditions.

The utility is increasing its use of natural gas and renewable energy sources. Closing Tanners Creek will affect 115 employees; AEP said it will work to help displaced employees find job opportunities at other AEP facilities.

Workers whose jobs are eliminated and don’t find other positions with the company will be considered for severance benefits.

In the short term, the transition concerns Fort Wayne investor Robert Elliott.

“Well, the company does rely on coal for (energy production), and President Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t like coal because of the emissions,” said Elliott, a 63-year-old health care professional who owns 100 shares of AEP stock. “We are making money, so that is always a good thing.”

Last year, coal accounted for 70 percent of AEP’s energy production, down from 86 percent in 2009.

AEP listed $15.4 billion in revenue last year, compared with $14.9 billion in 2012. The company also recorded $340 million as a result of residential, commercial and industrial customer rate increases in 2013.

For the next two years, the company plans to invest about $4 billion annually toward transmission projects.

Aside from the financials, Akins beamed over his company’s 2013 safety record, which was highlighted by no fatalities for the second consecutive year.

“We’re proud of that,” he said.