After battling the pandemic, civil unrest, trading losses and historic wildfires last year, Portland General Electric (PGE) survived last week with wind, ice and snow storms that ravaged its territory.

PGE CEO Maria Pope during a fourth quarter earnings conference call on Friday said Oregon’s largest power utility dealt with “punishing winds, ice, and snow,” that knocked out electricity to one-third of its customer base.

“The ice was particularly punishing to trees and power lines,” she said of last week’s storms.

The past 12 months have “tested us like never before,” Pope said. Last August’s energy trading positions resulted in losses that were short in the desert Southwest and California power markets and long in the Pacific Northwest power markets. The utility also dealt with Covid-19 and destructive wildfires, among other things. 

“We take very seriously our essential role as an energy provider,” said Pope. “After every significant event, we do after-action reports and root-cause analysis to figure out how we can do better.

“After last year’s wildfires, we made a number of adjustments — not just in our procedures, but in terms of equipment standards and other tools and technologies. We have been steadily improving our investment in our distribution system quite significantly, and that has contributed to lowering our operations/maintenance costs.”

The utility last year shuttered the last major coal-fired generation plant, Boardman in eastern Oregon. It also opened the Wheatridge combination wind, solar and battery storage installation in Morrow County near the Boardman site.

For 4Q2020, net income was $52 million (57 cents/share) compared with $61 million (58 cents) for the same period in 2019. Full year 2020 profits were $155 million ($1.72/share), compared with $214 million ($2.39) in 2019.