ALLETE
ALLETE INC (Form: 10-K, Received: 02/15/2013 08:05:20)

United States
Securities and Exchange Commission
Washington, D.C. 20549

Form 10-K
(Mark One)
 
 
T
Annual Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
 
 
For the fiscal year ended  December 31, 2012
 
 
 
 
£
Transition Report Pursuant to Section 13 or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934
 
 
For the transition period from ______________ to ______________

Commission File No. 1-3548
ALLETE, Inc.
(Exact name of registrant as specified in its charter)
Minnesota
 
41-0418150
(State or other jurisdiction of incorporation or organization)
 
(I.R.S. Employer Identification No.)

30 West Superior Street, Duluth, Minnesota 55802-2093
(Address of principal executive offices, including zip code)
(218) 279-5000
(Registrant’s telephone number, including area code)
Securities registered pursuant to Section 12(b) of the Act:
Title of each class
 
Name of each exchange on which registered
Common Stock, without par value
 
New York Stock Exchange

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 T     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 T

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 T     No ¨

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant has submitted electronically and posted on its corporate website, if any, every Interactive Data File required to be submitted and posted 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 and post such files).     Yes T     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 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. T

Indicate by check mark whether the registrant is a large accelerated filer, an accelerated filer, a non-accelerated filer or a smaller reporting company (as defined in Rule 12b-2 of the Act).     
Large Accelerated Filer T     Accelerated Filer ¨      Non-Accelerated Filer ¨      Smaller Reporting Company ¨

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

The aggregate market value of voting stock held by nonaffiliates on June 30, 2012 , was $1,591,836,880.

As of February 1, 2013 , there wer e 39,468,463 shares of ALLETE Common Stock, without par value, outstanding.

Documents Incorporated By Reference

Portions of the Proxy Statement for the 2013 Annual Meeting of Shareholders are incorporated by reference in Part III.



Index
 
 
 
 
Part I
 
Item 1.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Item 1A.
Item 1B.
Item 2.
Item 3.
Item 4.
Part II
 
Item 5.
Item 6.
Item 7.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Item 7A.
Item 8.
Item 9.
Item 9A.
Item 9B.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
2


Index
Part III
 
Item 10.
Item 11.
Item 12.
Item 13.
Item 14.
Part IV
 
 
Item 15.
 
 
 
 


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
3


Definitions

The following abbreviations or acronyms are used in the text. References in this report to “we,” “us” and “our” are to ALLETE, Inc. and its subsidiaries, collectively.
Abbreviation or Acronym
Term
AC
Alternating Current
AFUDC
Allowance for Funds Used During Construction - the cost of both debt and equity funds used to finance utility plant additions during construction periods
ALLETE
ALLETE, Inc.
ALLETE Clean Energy
ALLETE Clean Energy, Inc.
ALLETE Properties
ALLETE Properties, LLC and its subsidiaries
ArcelorMittal
ArcelorMittal USA, Inc.
ARS
Auction Rate Securities
ATC
American Transmission Company LLC
Basin
Basin Electric Power Cooperative
Bison 1
Bison 1 Wind Project
Bison 2
Bison 2 Wind Project
Bison 3
Bison 3 Wind Project
Bison
Bison Wind Energy Center
BNI Coal
BNI Coal, Ltd.
Boswell
Boswell Energy Center
CAIR
Clean Air Interstate Rule
CO 2
Carbon Dioxide
Company
ALLETE, Inc. and its subsidiaries
CSAPR
Cross-State Air Pollution Rule
DC
Direct Current
EPA
Environmental Protection Agency
ESOP
Employee Stock Ownership Plan
FERC
Federal Energy Regulatory Commission
Form 8-K
ALLETE Current Report on Form 8-K
Form 10-K
ALLETE Annual Report on Form 10-K
Form 10-Q
ALLETE Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q
GAAP
Accounting Principles Generally Accepted in the United States
GHG
Greenhouse Gases
Hibbard
Hibbard Renewable Energy Center
IBEW
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
Invest Direct
ALLETE’s Direct Stock Purchase and Dividend Reinvestment Plan
Item___
Item___of this Form 10-K
kV
Kilovolt(s)
Laskin
Laskin Energy Center
LIBOR
London Inter Bank Offered Rate
MACT
Maximum Achievable Control Technology
Magnetation
Magnetation, Inc.
Manitoba Hydro
Manitoba Hydro-Electric Board
MATS
Mercury and Air Toxics Standards
MBtu
Million British thermal units
Medicare Part D
Medicare Part D provision of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
4


Definitions (continued)

Mesabi Nugget
Mesabi Nugget Delaware, LLC
Minnesota Power
An operating division of ALLETE, Inc.
Minnkota Power
Minnkota Power Cooperative, Inc.
MISO
Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc.
Moody’s
Moody’s Investors Service, Inc.
MPCA
Minnesota Pollution Control Agency
MPUC
Minnesota Public Utilities Commission
MW / MWh
Megawatt(s) / Megawatt-hour(s)
NAAQS
National Ambient Air Quality Standards
NDPSC
North Dakota Public Service Commission
NERC
North American Electric Reliability Corporation
NOL
Net Operating Loss
Non-residential
Retail commercial, non-retail commercial, office, industrial, warehouse, storage and institutional
NO 2
Nitrogen Dioxide
NO X
Nitrogen Oxides
Note ___
Note ___ to the consolidated financial statements in this Form 10-K
NPDES
National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System
NYSE
New York Stock Exchange
Oliver Wind I
Oliver Wind I Energy Center
Oliver Wind II
Oliver Wind II Energy Center
Palm Coast Park
Palm Coast Park development project in Florida
Palm Coast Park District
Palm Coast Park Community Development District
PolyMet
PolyMet Mining Corporation
PPA
Power Purchase Agreement
PPACA
Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010
PSCW
Public Service Commission of Wisconsin
Rainy River Energy
Rainy River Energy Corporation - Wisconsin
RSOP
Retirement Savings and Stock Ownership Plan
SEC
Securities and Exchange Commission
SO 2
Sulfur Dioxide
Square Butte
Square Butte Electric Cooperative
Standard & Poor’s
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services
SWL&P
Superior Water, Light and Power Company
Taconite Harbor
Taconite Harbor Energy Center
Taconite Ridge
Taconite Ridge Energy Center
Town Center
Town Center at Palm Coast development project in Florida
Town Center District
Town Center at Palm Coast Community Development District
U.S.
United States of America
USS Corporation
United States Steel Corporation

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
5


Forward-Looking Statements

Statements in this report that are not statements of historical facts are considered “forward-looking” and, accordingly, involve risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from those discussed. Although such forward-looking statements have been made in good faith and are based on reasonable assumptions, there can be no assurance that the expected results will be achieved. Any statements that express, or involve discussions as to, future expectations, risks, beliefs, plans, objectives, assumptions, events, uncertainties, financial performance, or growth strategies (often, but not always, through the use of words or phrases such as “anticipates,” “believes,” “estimates,” “expects,” “intends,” “plans,” “projects,” “likely,” “will continue,” “could,” “may,” “potential,” “target,” “outlook” or words of similar meaning) are not statements of historical facts and may be forward-looking.

In connection with the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995, we are providing this cautionary statement to identify important factors that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated in forward-looking statements made by or on behalf of ALLETE in this Form 10-K, in presentations, on our website, in response to questions or otherwise. These statements are qualified in their entirety by reference to, and are accompanied by, the following important factors, in addition to any assumptions and other factors referred to specifically in connection with such forward-looking statements that could cause our actual results to differ materially from those indicated in the forward-looking statements:

our ability to successfully implement our strategic objectives;
regulatory or legislative actions, including those of the United States Congress, state legislatures, the FERC, the MPUC, the PSCW, the NDPSC, the EPA and various state, local and county regulators, and city administrators, that impact our allowed rates of return, capital structure, ability to secure financing, industry and rate structure, acquisition and disposal of assets and facilities, operation and construction of plant facilities, recovery of purchased power, capital investments and other expenses, including present or prospective wholesale and retail competition and environmental matters;
our ability to manage expansion and integrate acquisitions;
our current and potential industrial and municipal customers’ ability to execute announced expansion plans;
the impacts on our Regulated Operations of climate change and future regulation to restrict the emissions of GHG;
effects of restructuring initiatives in the electric industry;
economic and geographic factors, including political and economic risks;
changes in and compliance with laws and regulations;
weather conditions, natural disasters and pandemic diseases;
war, acts of terrorism and cyber attacks;
wholesale power market conditions;
population growth rates and demographic patterns;
effects of competition, including competition for retail and wholesale customers;
zoning and permitting of land held for resale, real estate development or changes in the real estate market;
pricing, availability and transportation of fuel and other commodities and the ability to recover the costs of such commodities;
changes in tax rates or policies or in rates of inflation;
project delays or changes in project costs;
availability and management   of construction materials and skilled construction labor for capital projects;
changes in operating expenses and capital expenditures;
global and domestic economic conditions affecting us or our customers;
our ability to access capital markets and bank financing;
changes in interest rates and the performance of the financial markets;
our ability to replace a mature workforce and retain qualified, skilled and experienced personnel; and
the outcome of legal and administrative proceedings (whether civil or criminal) and settlements.

Additional disclosures regarding factors that could cause our results or performance to differ from those anticipated by this report are discussed in Item 1A under the heading “Risk Factors” begin ning on page 27 of t his Form 10-K. Any forward-looking statement speaks only as of the date on which such statement is made, and we undertake no obligation to update any forward-looking statement to reflect events or circumstances after the date on which that statement is made or to reflect the occurrence of unanticipated events. New factors emerge from time to time, and it is not possible for management to predict all of these factors, nor can we assess the impact of each of these factors on our businesses or the extent to which any factor, or combination of factors, may cause actual results to differ materially from those contained in any forward-looking statement. Readers are urged to carefully review and consider the various disclosures made by us in this Form 10-K and in our other reports filed with the SEC that attempt to identify the risks and uncertainties that may affect our business.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
6


Part I

Item 1. Business

Regulated Operations includes our regulated utilities, Minnesota Power and SWL&P, as well as our investment in ATC, a Wisconsin-based regulated utility that owns and maintains electric transmission assets in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. Minnesota Power provides regulated utility electric service in northeastern Minnesota to approximately 143,000 retail customers. Minnesota Power’s non-affiliated municipal customers consist of 16 municipalities in Minnesota and 1 private utility in Wisconsin. SWL&P, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALLETE, is also a private utility in Wisconsin and a customer of Minnesota Power. SWL&P provides regulated electric, natural gas and water service in northwestern Wisconsin to approximately 15,000 electric customers, 12,000 natural gas customers and 10,000 water customers. Our regulated utility operations include retail and wholesale activities under the jurisdiction of state and federal regulatory authorities .

Investments and Other is comprised primarily of BNI Coal, our coal mining operations in North Dakota, ALLETE Properties, our Florida real estate investment, and ALLETE Clean Energy, our business aimed at developing or acquiring capital projects that create energy solutions via wind, solar, biomass, hydro, natural gas/liquids, shale resources, clean coal and other clean energy innovations. This segment also include s other business development and corporate expenditures, a small amount of non-rate base generation, approximately 6,100  acres of land in Minnesota, and earnings on cash and investments.

ALLETE is incorporated under the laws of Minnesota. Our corporate headquarters are in Duluth, Minnesota. Statistical information is presented as of December 31, 2012 , unless otherwise indicated. All subsidiaries are wholly-owned unless otherwise specifically indicated. References in this report to “we,” “us” and “our” are to ALLETE and its subsidiaries, collectively.

Year Ended December 31
2012

2011

2010

 
 
 
 
Consolidated Operating Revenue – Millions

$961.2


$928.2


$907.0

 
 
 
 
Percentage of Consolidated Operating Revenue
 
 
 
Regulated Operations
91
%
92
%
92
%
Investments and Other
9
%
8
%
8
%
 
100
%
100
%
100
%

For a detailed discussion of results of operations and trends, see Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. For business segment information, see Note 1. Operations and Significant Accounting Policies and Note 2. Business Segments.


Regulated Operations

Electric Sales / Customers

Regulated Utility Electric Sales
 
 
 
 
 
 
Year Ended December 31
2012

%
2011

%
2010

%
Millions of Kilowatt-hours
 
 
 
 
 
 
Retail and Municipals
 
 
 
 
 
 
Residential
1,132

9
1,159

9
1,150

9
Commercial
1,436

11
1,433

11
1,433

11
Industrial
7,502

57
7,365

56
6,804

52
Municipals
1,020

8
1,013

7
1,006

7
Total Retail and Municipals
11,090

85
10,970

83
10,393

79
Other Power Suppliers
1,999

15
2,205

17
2,745

21
Total Regulated Utility Electric Sales
13,089

100
13,175

100
13,138

100


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
7


Regulated Operations (Continued)

Seasonality

The operations of our industrial customers, which make up a large portion of our sales portfolio as shown in the table above, are not typically subject to significant seasonal variations. As a result, Minnesota Power is generally not subject to significant seasonal fluctuations in electric sales; however, residential sales as compared to 2011 were down primarily due to unseasonably warm weather during the first four months of 2012. Heating degree days in Duluth, Minnesota were approximately 22 percent lower than the first four months of 2011.

Industrial Customers . In 2012 , our industrial customers represented 57 percent of total regulated utility kilowatt-hour sales. Our industrial customers are primarily in the taconite mining, iron concentrate, paper, pulp and wood products, and pipeline industries.

Industrial Customer Electric Sales
 
 
 
 
 
 
Year Ended December 31
2012

%
2011

%
2010

%
Millions of Kilowatt-hours
 
 
 
 
 
 
Taconite/Iron Concentrate
4,968

66
4,874

66
4,324

64
Paper, Pulp and Wood Products
1,571

21
1,560

21
1,573

23
Pipelines and Other Industrial
963

13
931

13
907

13
Total Industrial Customer Electric Sales
7,502

100
7,365

100
6,804

100

Five Minnesota Power taconite customers produce approximately 75 percent of the iron ore produced in the U.S. according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s 2011 Minerals Yearbook published in January 2013. Sales to taconite customers and iron concentrate customers represented 4,968 million kilowatt-hours, or 66 percent , of our total industrial sales in 2012 . Taconite, an iron-bearing rock of relatively low iron content, is abundantly available in northern Minnesota and an important domestic source of raw material for the steel industry. Taconite processing plants use large quantities of electric power to grind the iron-bearing rock, and agglomerate and pelletize the iron particles into taconite pellets.

Minnesota Power’s five taconite customers have the capability to produce up to approximately 41 million tons of taconite pellets annually. Taconite pellets produced in Minnesota are primarily shipped to North American steel making facilities that are part of the integrated steel industry. Steel produced from these North American facilities is used primarily in the manufacture of automobiles, appliances, pipe and tube products for the gas and oil industry, and in the construction industry. Historically, less than five percent of Minnesota taconite production is exported outside of North America.

During 2012 , the domestic steel industry’s production levels enabled Minnesota taconite producers to operate at, or near, full capacity for the entire year. According to the American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), an association of North American steel producers, U.S. raw steel production operated at approximately 75 percent of capacity in 2012 , similar to 2011 levels of 75 percent, and up from 70 percent in 2010.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
8


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Industrial Customers (Continued)

Annual taconite production in Minnesota remained strong at, or near, full production with 39 million tons produced in both 2012 and 2011, up from 35 million tons in 2010. The following table reflects Minnesota Power’s taconite customers’ production levels for the past ten years.
Minnesota Power Taconite Customer Production
Year
 
Tons (Millions)
2012*
 
39
2011
 
39
2010
 
35
2009
 
17
2008
 
39
2007
 
38
2006
 
39
2005
 
40
2004
 
39
2003
 
34
Source: Minnesota Department of Revenue December 2012 Mining Tax Guide for years 2003 - 2011.
* Preliminary data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

In addition to serving the taconite industry, Minnesota Power also serves a number of customers in the paper, pulp and wood products industry, which represented 1,571 million kilowatt-hours, or 21 percent , of our total industrial sales in 2012 . Four major paper mills, which represent the majority of this load, reported operating at, or near, full capacity for the majority of 2012 .

Large Power Customer Contracts. Minnesota Power has 9 Large Power Customer contracts, each serving requirements of 10 MW or more of customer load. The customers consist of five taconite producing facilities (two of which are owned by one company and are served under a single contract), one iron nugget plant, and four paper and pulp mills.

Large Power Customer contracts require Minnesota Power to have a certain amount of generating capacity available. In turn, each Large Power Customer is required to pay a minimum monthly demand charge that covers the fixed costs associated with having this capacity available to serve the customer, including a return on common equity. Most contracts allow customers to establish the level of megawatts subject to a demand charge on a four-month basis and require that a portion of their megawatt needs be committed on a take-or-pay basis for at least a portion of the term of the agreement. In addition to the demand charge, each Large Power Customer is billed an energy charge for each kilowatt-hour used that recovers the variable costs incurred in generating electricity. Three of the Large Power Customers have interruptible service which provides a discounted demand rate in exchange for the ability to interrupt the customers during system emergencies. Minnesota Power also provides incremental production service for customer demand levels above the contractual take-or-pay levels. There is no demand charge for this service and energy is priced at an increment above Minnesota Power’s cost. Incremental production service is interruptible.

All contracts with Large Power Customers continue past the contract termination date unless the required advance notice of cancellation has been given. The required advance notice of cancellation varies from one to four years. Such contracts minimize the impact on earnings that otherwise would result from significant reductions in kilowatt-hour sales to such customers. Large Power Customers are required to take all of their purchased electric service requirements from Minnesota Power for the duration of their contracts. The rates and corresponding revenue associated with capacity and energy provided under these contracts are subject to change through the same regulatory process governing all retail electric rates. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters – Electric Rates.)


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
9


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Large Power Customer Contracts (Continued)

Minnesota Power, as permitted by the MPUC, requires its taconite-producing Large Power Customers to pay weekly for electric usage based on monthly energy usage estimates. These customers receive estimated bills based on Minnesota Power’s estimate of the customer’s energy usage, forecasted energy prices, and fuel clause adjustment estimates. Minnesota Power’s four taconite-producing Large Power Customers have generally predictable energy usage on a week-to-week basis, and any differences that occur are trued-up the following month.

Contract Status for Minnesota Power Large Power Customers
As of February 1, 2013
Customer
Industry
Location
Ownership
Earliest
Termination Date
ArcelorMittal – Minorca Mine (a)
Taconite
Virginia, MN
ArcelorMittal
January 31, 2017
Hibbing Taconite Co. (a)
Taconite
Hibbing, MN
62.3% ArcelorMittal
23.0% Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
14.7% USS Corporation
January 31, 2017
United Taconite LLC (a)
Taconite
Eveleth, MN
Cliffs Natural Resources Inc.
January 31, 2017
USS Corporation
(USS – Minnesota Ore) (a,b)
Taconite
Mt. Iron, MN and Keewatin, MN
USS Corporation
January 31, 2017
Mesabi Nugget
Iron Nugget
Hoyt Lakes, MN
80% Steel Dynamics, Inc.
20% Kobe Steel USA
December 31, 2017
Boise White Paper, LLC
Paper
International Falls, MN
Boise Paper Holdings, LLC
January 31, 2015
UPM, Blandin Paper Mill (a)
Paper
Grand Rapids, MN
UPM-Kymmene Corporation
January 31, 2017
NewPage Corporation – Duluth Mill (c)
Paper and Pulp
Duluth, MN
NewPage Corporation
December 31, 2022
Sappi Cloquet LLC (a)
Paper and Pulp
Cloquet, MN
Sappi Limited
January 31, 2017
(a)
The contract will terminate four years from the date of written notice from either Minnesota Power or the customer. No notice of contract cancellation has been given by either party. Thus, the earliest date of cancellation is January 31, 2017.
(b)
USS Corporation owns both the Minntac Plant in Mountain Iron, MN and the Keewatin Taconite Plant in Keewatin, MN.
(c)
NewPage emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2012. The Duluth mill operations continued without interruption throughout the bankruptcy proceedings and a new 10-year contract was approved by the MPUC in a December 10, 2012 order. (See Note 1. Operations and Significant Accounting Policies Concentration of Credit Risk.)

Residential and Commercial Customers. In 2012 , our residential and commercial customers represented 20 percent of total regulated utility kilowatt-hour sales. Minnesota Power provides regulated utility electric service in northeastern Minnesota to approximately 143,000 residential and commercial customers. SWL&P provides regulated electric, natural gas and water service in northwestern Wisconsin to approximately 15,000 electric customers, 12,000 natural gas customers and 10,000 water customers.

Municipal Customers. In 2012 , our municipal customers represented 8 percent of total regulated utility kilowatt-hour sales, which included 16 municipalities in Minnesota and 1 private utility in Wisconsin. SWL&P is also a private utility in Wisconsin and a customer of Minnesota Power. The private non-affiliated utility in Wisconsin, which requires 17 MW of average monthly demand, has submitted a cancellation notice with termination effective December 31, 2013. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters.)

Other Power Suppliers. The Company also enters into off-system sales with Other Power Suppliers. These sales are sold at market-based prices into the MISO market on a daily basis or through bilateral agreements of various durations.

Basin Power Sales Agreement. Minnesota Power entered into an agreement to sell 100 MW of capacity and energy to Basin for a ten-year period which began in May 2010. The capacity charge is based on a fixed monthly schedule with a minimum annual escalation provision. The energy charge is based on a fixed monthly schedule and provides for annual escalation based on our cost of fuel. The agreement allows us to recover a pro rata share of increased costs related to emissions that may occur during the last five years of the contract.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
10


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Other Power Suppliers (Continued)

Minnkota Power Sales Agreement. In December 2009, Minnesota Power entered into a power sales agreement with Minnkota Power. Under the power sales agreement, Minnesota Power will sell a portion of its output from Square Butte to Minnkota Power, resulting in Minnkota Power’s net entitlement increasing and Minnesota Power’s net entitlement decreasing until Minnesota Power’s share is eliminated at the end of 2025 . (See Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.)


Power Supply

In order to meet our customers’ electric requirements, we utilize a mix of Company generation and purchased power. The Company’s generation is primarily coal-fired, but also includes approximately 91 MW of hydroelectric generation from ten hydro stations in Minnesota, 317 MW of nameplate capacity wind generation, and 81 MW of biomass co-fired generation. Purchased power consists of long-term coal, wind and hydro PPAs as well as market purchases. The following table reflects the Company’s generating capabilities as of December 31, 2012 , and total electrical output for 2012 . Minnesota Power had an annual net peak load of 1,633 MW on July 2, 2012.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
11


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Power Supply (Continued)
 
 
 
 
Year Ended
 
Unit
Year
Net
December 31, 2012
Regulated Utility Power Supply
No.
Installed
Capability
Generation and Purchases
 
 
 
MW
MWh
%
Coal-Fired
 
 
 
 
 
Boswell Energy Center
1
1958
68

 
 
in Cohasset, MN
2
1960
68

 
 
 
3
1973
362

 
 
 
4
1980
468

(a)
 
 
 
 
966

6,484,096

48.6
Laskin Energy Center
1
1953
47

 
 
in Hoyt Lakes, MN
2
1953
50

 
 
 
 
 
97

368,364

2.8
Taconite Harbor Energy Center
1
1957
79

 
 
in Schroeder, MN
2
1957
76

 
 
 
3
1967
84

 
 
 
 
 
239

872,319

6.4
Total Coal
 
 
1,302

7,724,779

57.8
Biomass/Coal/Natural Gas
 
 
 
 
 
Hibbard Renewable Energy Center in Duluth, MN
3 & 4
1949, 1951
58

20,332

0.2
Cloquet Energy Center in Cloquet, MN
5
2001
23

66,803

0.5
Total Biomass/Coal/Natural Gas
 
 
81

87,135

0.7
Hydro (b)
 
 
 
 
 
Group consisting of ten stations in MN
Multiple
Multiple
91

285,118

2.1
Wind (c)
 
 
 
 
 
Taconite Ridge Energy Center in Mt. Iron, MN
Multiple
2008
4

62,393

0.5
Bison Wind Energy Center in Oliver and Morton Counties, ND
Multiple
2010-2012
42

280,869

2.1
Total Wind
 
 
46

343,262

2.6
Total Company Generation
 
 
1,520

8,440,294

63.2
Long-Term Purchased Power
 
 
 
 
 
Lignite Coal - Square Butte near Center, ND
 
 
 
1,630,776

12.2
Wind - Oliver County, ND
 
 
 
341,105

2.6
Hydro - Manitoba Hydro in Winnipeg, MB, Canada
 
 
 
359,395

2.7
Total Long-Term Purchased Power
 
 


2,331,276

17.5
Other Purchased Power (d )
 
 
 
2,577,648

19.3
Total Purchased Power
 
 


4,908,924

36.8
Total
 
 
1,520

13,349,218

100.0
(a)
Boswell Unit 4 net capability shown above reflects Minnesota Power’s ownership percentage of 80 percent. WPPI Energy owns 20 percent of Boswell Unit 4. (See Note 4. Jointly-Owned Facilities.)
(b)
In June 2012, record rainfall and flooding occurred near Duluth, Minnesota and surrounding areas impacting Minnesota Power’s hydro system, particularly the Thomson Energy Center, which is currently off-line due to damage to the forebay canal and flooding at the facility. (See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations - Outlook - Hydro Operations.)
(c)
Taconite Ridge consists of 10 wind turbine generator units with a total nameplate capacity of 25 MW. Bison Wind Energy Center consists of 101 wind turbine generator units, with a total nameplate capacity of 292 MW. The net capability reflected in the table is the actual accredited capacity of the facility, which is the amount of net generating capability associated with the facility for which capacity credit was obtained using limited historical data. As more data is collected, actual accredited capacity may increase. Bison 1 was commissioned in December 2010 and January 2012 while Bison 2 and Bison 3 were commissioned in December 2012.
(d)
Includes short-term market purchases in the MISO market and from Other Power Suppliers.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
12


Regulated Operations (Continued)

Fuel . Minnesota Power purchases low-sulfur, sub-bituminous coal from the Powder River Basin region located in Montana and Wyoming. Coal consumption in 2012 for electric generation at Minnesota Power’s coal-fired generating stations was approximately 4.6 million tons. As of December 31, 2012 , Minnesota Power had a coal inventory of 0.8 million tons. Minnesota Power’s coal supply agreements have expiration dates through 2014. In 2013 , Minnesota Power expects to obtain coal under these coal supply agreements and in the spot market. Minnesota Power also continues to explore other future coal supply options. We believe that adequate supplies of low-sulfur, sub-bituminous coal will continue to be available.

Minnesota Power also has transportation agreements in place for the delivery of a significant portion of its coal requirements. These transportation agreements have expiration dates through 2015. The delivered costs of fuel for Minnesota Power’s generation are recoverable from Minnesota Power’s utility customers through the fuel adjustment clause.

Coal Delivered to Minnesota Power
Year Ended December 31
2012

2011

2010

Average Price per Ton

$29.58


$28.85


$25.49

Average Price per MBtu

$1.64


$1.60


$1.42


Long-Term Purchased Power . Minnesota Power has contracts to purchase capacity and energy from various entities, including output from certain hydro and wind generating facilities.

Square Butte PPA. Under the long-term agreement with Square Butte, which expires at the end of 2026, Minnesota Power is currently entitled to 50 percent of the output of a 455-MW coal-fired generating unit located near Center, North Dakota. (See Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.) BNI Coal supplies lignite coal to Square Butte. This lignite supply is sufficient to provide fuel for the anticipated useful life of the generating unit. Square Butte’s cost of lignite burned in 2012 was approximately $1.35 per MBtu.

Minnkota Power PPA. On December 12, 2012, Minnesota Power entered into a long-term PPA with Minnkota Power. Under this agreement Minnesota Power will purchase 50 MW of capacity and the energy associated with that capacity over the term June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2020. The agreement includes a fixed capacity charge and energy pricing that escalates at a fixed rate annually over the term.

Oliver Wind I and II PPAs. In 2006 and 2007, Minnesota Power entered into two long-term wind PPAs with an affiliate of NextEra Energy, Inc. to purchase the output from Oliver Wind I ( 50 MW) and Oliver Wind II ( 48 MW) — wind facilities located near Center, North Dakota. Each agreement is for 25 years and provides for the purchase of all output from the facilities at fixed energy prices. There are no fixed capacity charges, and we only pay for energy as it is delivered to us.

Manitoba Hydro PPAs. Minnesota Power has a long-term PPA with Manitoba Hydro that expires in April 2015. Under this agreement, Minnesota Power is purchasing 50 MW of capacity and the energy associated with that capacity. Both the capacity price and the energy price are adjusted annually by the change in a governmental inflationary index.

Minnesota Power has a separate long-term PPA with Manitoba Hydro to purchase surplus energy through April 2022. This energy-only transaction primarily consists of surplus hydro energy on Manitoba Hydro’s system that is delivered to Minnesota Power on a non-firm basis. The pricing is based on forward market prices. Under this agreement, Minnesota Power will purchase at least one million MWh of energy over the contract term.

In May 2011, Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro signed a long-term PPA. The PPA calls for Manitoba Hydro to sell 250 MW of capacity and energy to Minnesota Power for 15 years beginning in 2020 and is subject to construction of additional transmission capacity between Manitoba and the U.S., along with construction of new hydroelectric generating capacity in Manitoba (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Transmission and Distribution.) The capacity price is adjusted annually until 2020 by a change in a governmental inflationary index. The energy price is based on a formula that includes an annual fixed price component adjusted for a change in a governmental inflationary index and a natural gas index, as well as market prices.



ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
13


Regulated Operations (Continued)

Transmission and Distribution

We have electric transmission an d distribution lines of 500 kV (8 miles), 345 kV (29 miles), 250 kV (465 miles), 230 kV (698 miles), 161 kV (43 miles), 138 kV (128 miles), 115 kV (1,244 miles) and less than 115 kV (6,233 miles). We own and operate 170 substations with a total capacity of 11,322 megavoltamperes. Some of our transmission and distribution lines interconnect with other utilities.

CapX2020. Minnesota Power is a participant in the CapX2020 initiative which represents an effort to ensure electric transmission and distribution reliability in Minnesota and the surrounding region for the future. CapX2020, which consists of electric cooperatives, municipal and investor-owned utilities, including Minnesota’s largest transmission owners, has assessed the transmission system and projected growth in customer demand for electricity through 2020. Studies show that the region’s transmission system will require major upgrades and expansion to accommodate increased electricity demand as well as support renewable energy expansion through 2020.

Minnesota Power is participating in three CapX2020 projects: the Fargo, North Dakota to St. Cloud, Minnesota project, the Monticello, Minnesota to St. Cloud, Minnesota project, which together total a 238 -mile, 345 kV line from Fargo, North Dakota to Monticello, Minnesota, and the 70 -mile, 230 kV line between Bemidji, Minnesota and Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center near Grand Rapids, Minnesota. The 28 -mile 345 kV line between Monticello and St. Cloud was placed into service in December 2011 and the 70 -mile 230 kV line between Bemidji, Minnesota and Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center near Grand Rapids, Minnesota was placed into service in September 2012. In June 2011, the MPUC approved the route permit for the Minnesota portion of the Fargo to St. Cloud project. The North Dakota permitting process was completed on August 12, 2012. The entire 238 -mile, 345 kV line from Fargo to Monticello is expected to be in service by 2015.

Based on projected costs of the three transmission lines and the allocation agreements among participating utilities, Minnesota Power plans to invest between $100 million and $110 million in the CapX2020 initiative through 2015. A total of $48.2 million was spent through December 31, 2012 , of which $37.3 million related to the Fargo, North Dakota to Monticello, Minnesota projects and $10.9 million related to the Bemidji, Minnesota to Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center project ( $27.8 million as of December 31, 2011 of which $20.4 million related to the Fargo, North Dakota to Monticello, Minnesota projects and $7.4 million related to the Bemidji, Minnesota to Minnesota Power’s Boswell Energy Center project). As future CapX2020 projects are identified, Minnesota Power may elect to participate on a project-by-project basis.

Great Northern Transmission Line. As a condition of the long-term PPA signed in May 2011 with Manitoba Hydro, construction of additional transmission capacity is required. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Power Supply.) In February 2012, Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro proposed construction of the Great Northern Transmission Line, a 500 kV transmission line between Manitoba and Minnesota’s Iron Range, in order to strengthen the electric grid, enhance regional reliability and promote a greater exchange of sustainable energy, which is targeted to be in service in 2020. Total project cost and cost allocations are still to be determined. The Great Northern Transmission Line is subject to various federal and state regulatory approvals. In addition, Manitoba Hydro must obtain regulatory and governmental approvals related to new transmission lines and hydroelectric generation development in Canada.

ATC Joint Development. Minnesota Power and ATC are evaluating the joint development of a 345 kV transmission line from Minnesota’s Iron Range to Duluth, Minnesota, for service after 2020, connecting to the Great Northern Transmission Line. This is in addition to assessing transmission alternatives in Wisconsin that would allow for the movement of more renewable energy in the Upper Midwest while at the same time strengthening electric reliability in the region. Total project costs, ownership shares and cost allocation are still to be determined.


Investment in ATC

Rainy River Energy, our wholly-owned subsidiary, owns approximately 8 percent of ATC, a Wisconsin-based utility that owns and maintains electric transmission assets in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. ATC rates are FERC-approved and are based on a 12.2 percent return on common equity dedicated to utility plant. We account for our investment in ATC under the equity method of accounting. As of December 31, 2012 , our equity investment in ATC was $107.3 million ($98.9 million at December 31, 2011 ). (See Note 6. Investment in ATC.)


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
14


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Investment in ATC (Continued)

In September 2012, ATC updated its 10-year transmission assessment covering the years 2012 through 2021 which identifies between $3.9 and $4.8 billion in transmission system improvements. These investments by ATC are expected to be funded through a combination of internally generated cash, debt and investor contributions. As opportunities arise, we plan to make additional investments in ATC through general capital calls based upon our pro rata ownership interest in ATC.

In April 2011, ATC and Duke Energy Corporation announced the creation of a joint venture, Duke-American Transmission Co. (DATC) that intends to build, own and operate new electric transmission infrastructure in the U.S. and Canada. DATC is subject to the rules and regulations of the FERC, MISO, PJM Interconnection LLC and various other independent system operators and state regulatory authorities. In September 2011, DATC announced its first set of proposed transmission projects, which include seven new transmission line projects in five Midwestern states. The individual projects have a total cost of approximately $4 billion. We intend to maintain our approximate 8 percent ownership interest in ATC.


Properties

We own office and service buildings, an energy control center, repair shops, and storerooms in various localities. All of our electric plants are subject to mortgages, which collateralize the outstanding first mortgage bonds of Minnesota Power and SWL&P. All of our generating plants and most of our substations are located on real property owned by us, subject to the lien of a mortgage, whereas most of our electric lines are located on real property owned by others with appropriate easement rights or necessary permits from governmental authorities. WPPI Energy owns 20 percent of Boswell Unit 4. WPPI Energy has the right to use our transmission line facilities to transport its share of Boswell generation. (See Note 4. Jointly-Owned Facilities.)


Regulatory Matters

We are subject to the jurisdiction of various regulatory authorities and other organizations. The MPUC has regulatory authority over Minnesota Power’s service area in Minnesota, retail rates, retail services, capital structure, issuance of securities and other matters. The FERC has jurisdiction over the licensing of hydroelectric projects, the establishment of rates and charges for the sale of electricity for resale and transmission of electricity in interstate commerce, certain accounting and record-keeping practices and ATC. The NERC has been certified by the FERC as the national electric reliability organization and has jurisdiction over certain aspects of the Company’s generation and transmission operations, including cybersecurity relating to reliability. The PSCW has regulatory authority over SWL&P’s retail sales of electricity, natural gas, water, issuances of securities, and other matters. The NDPSC has jurisdiction over site and route permitting of generation and transmission facilities necessary for construction in North Dakota.

Electric Rates. All rates and contract terms in our Regulated Operations are subject to approval by applicable regulatory authorities. Minnesota Power designs its retail electric service rates based on cost of service studies under which allocations are made to the various classes of customers as approved by the MPUC. Nearly all retail sales include billing adjustment clauses, which adjust electric service rates for changes in the cost of fuel and purchased energy, recovery of current and deferred conservation improvement program   expenditures and recovery of certain environmental, transmission and renewable expenditures.

Information published by the Edison Electric Institute ( Typical Bills and Average Rates Report – Summer 2012 and Rankings – July 1, 2012 ) ranked Minnesota Power as having the fourth lowest average retail rates out of 169 utilities in the U.S. Minnesota Power had the lowest rates in Minnesota and second lowest in the region consisting of Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. The MPUC has regulatory authority over Minnesota Power’s service area in Minnesota, retail rates, retail services, capital structure, issuance of securities and other matters.

2010 Rate Case. Minnesota Power’s current retail rates are based on a 2011 MPUC retail rate order, effective June 1, 2011 , that allowed for a 10.38 percent return on common equity and a 54.29 percent equity ratio.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
15


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Regulatory Matters (Continued)

In February 2011, Minnesota Power appealed the MPUC’s interim rate decision in the Company’s 2010 rate case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals. The Company appealed the MPUC’s finding of exigent circumstances in the interim rate decision with the primary arguments being that the MPUC exceeded its statutory authority, made its decision without the support of a body of record evidence and that the decision violated public policy. The Company desires to resolve whether the MPUC’s finding of exigent circumstances was lawful for application in future rate cases. In December 2011, the Minnesota Court of Appeals concluded that the MPUC did not err in finding exigent circumstances and properly exercised its discretion in setting interim rates. On January 4, 2012, the Company filed a petition for review at the Minnesota Supreme Court (Court). On February 14, 2012, the Court granted the petition for review and oral arguments were held before the Court on October 9, 2012. A decision is expected in early 2013; however, we cannot predict the outcome at this time.

Pension. In December 2011, the Company filed a petition with the MPUC requesting a mechanism to recover the cost of capital associated with the prepaid pension asset (or liability) created by the required contributions under the pension plan in excess of (or less than) annual pension expense. The Company f urther requested a mechanism to defer pension expenses in excess of (or less than) those currently being recovered in base rates. On February 14, 2013, the MPUC denied the Company's petition for recovery of the pension asset and deferral of expenses outside of a general rate case. The MPUC decision does not impact the results of operations for the year ended December 31, 2012.

ALLETE Clean Energy. In August 2011, the Company filed with the MPUC for approval of certain affiliated interest agreements between ALLETE and ALLETE Clean Energy. These agreements relate to various relationships with ALLETE, including the accounting for certain shared services, as well as the transfer of transmission and wind development rights in North Dakota to ALLETE Clean Energy. These transmission and wind development rights are separate and distinct from those needed by Minnesota Power to meet Minnesota’s renewable energy standard requirements. On July 23, 2012, the MPUC issued an order approving certain administrative items related to accounting for shared services and the transfer of meteorological towers, while deferring decisions related to transmission and wind development rights pending the MPUC’s further review of Minnesota Power’s future retail electric service needs.

Bison Wind Energy Center. Our Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota consists of 292 MW of nameplate capacity. The 82 MW Bison 1 wind facility was completed in two phases; the first phase in 2010 and the second phase in January 2012. The 105 MW Bison 2 and 105 MW Bison 3 wind facilities were completed in December 2012. Total project costs for our Bison Wind Energy Center were $473.3 million through December 31, 2012 . In September 2011 and November 2011, the MPUC approved Minnesota Power’s petition seeking cost recovery for investments and expenditures related to Bison 2 and Bison 3, respectively.

Current customer billing rates were approved by the MPUC in a November 2011 order and are based on investments and expenditures associated with Bison 1. We anticipate filing a cost recovery petition with the MPUC in the first half of 2013 to update customer billing rates for Bison 1 and to include investments and expenditures associated with Bison 2 and Bison 3.

Integrated Resource Plan. In May 2011, the MPUC issued its final order approving our 2010 Integrated Resource Plan. As a condition of the final order, a required baseload diversification study evaluating the impact of additional environmental regulations over the next two decades was filed on February 6, 2012. Minnesota Power’s Integrated Resource Plan to be filed on March 1, 2013, will detail our “EnergyForward” strategic plan (see Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Outlook – EnergyForward), and will include an analysis of a variety of existing and future energy resource alternatives and a projection of customer cost impact by class.

Boswell Mercury Emissions Reduction Plan. Minnesota Power is required to implement a mercury emissions reduction project for Boswell Unit 4 under the Minnesota Mercury Emissions Reduction and the Federal MATS rule. On August 31, 2012, Minnesota Power filed its mercury emissions reduction plan for Boswell Unit 4 with the MPUC and the MPCA. The plan proposes that Minnesota Power install pollution controls by early 2016 to address both the Minnesota mercury emissions reduction requirements and the Federal MATS rule. Costs to implement the Boswell Unit 4 mercury emissions reduction plan are included in the estimated capital expenditures and are estimated to be between $350 million and $400 million. The MPCA has 180 days to comment on the mercury emissions reduction plan, which then is reviewed by the MPUC for a decision. We expect a decision by the MPUC on the plan in the third quarter of 2013. After approval by the MPUC we anticipate filing a petition to include investments and expenditures in customer billing rates.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
16


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Regulatory Matters (Continued)

Transmission Investments. We have an approved cost recovery rider in place for certain transmission expenditures and the continued use of our 2009 billing factor was approved by the MPUC in May 2011. The billing factor allows us to charge our retail customers on a current basis for the costs of constructing certain transmission facilities plus a return on the capital invested. In June 2011, we filed a request with the MPUC to approve an updated billing factor that includes additional transmission expenditures, which we expect to be approved in the first quarter of 2013.

Conservation Improvement Program (CIP). Minnesota requires electric utilities to spend a minimum of 1.5 percent of gross operating revenues from service provided in the state on energy CIPs each year. These investments are recovered from retail customers through a combination of the conservation cost recovery charge included in retail base rates and a conservation program adjustment, which is adjusted annually through the CIP consolidated filing. The MPUC allows utilities to accumulate, in a deferred account for future cost recovery, all CIP expenditures, any financial incentive earned for cost-effective program achievements, and a carrying charge on the deferred account balance. Minnesota’s Next Generation Energy Act of 2007 introduced, in addition to the minimum spending requirements, an energy-saving goal of 1.5 percent of gross annual retail electric energy sales beginning with program year 2010. In June 2010, a triennial filing was submitted for 2011 through 2013, and was subsequently approved by the Minnesota Department of Commerce. Minnesota Power’s CIP investment goal was $6.0 million for 2012 ($5.9 million for 2011; $4.6 million for 2010), with actual spending of $6.8 million in 2012 ($6.3 million in 2011; $5.6 million in 2010).

In light of the changes in the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007, the MPUC adjusted the utility performance incentive to recognize utilities for making progress toward and meeting the energy-savings goals established. This new incentive mechanism became effective beginning with the 2010 program year. On March 30, 2012, Minnesota Power submitted its 2011 CIP consolidated filing that calculated CIP financial incentives based upon the MPUC’s new mechanism. The total requested incentive was $7.8 million in 2012 ($6.8 million in 2011 related to the 2010 CIP consolidated filing). The requested CIP financial incentive was approved by the MPUC in an order received on November 27, 2012, and was recorded as revenue and as a regulatory asset; the approved financial incentive will be billed in 2013.

Rapids Energy Center. On December 19, 2012, Minnesota Power filed with the MPUC for approval to transfer the assets of Rapids Energy Center from non-rate base generation to Minnesota Power’s Regulated Operations. Rapids Energy Center is a generation facility that is located at the UPM, Blandin Paper Mill (Blandin). Minnesota Power and Blandin entered into a new electric service agreement in September 2012 which is also subject to MPUC approval. We expect a decision from the MPUC on these filings in mid-2013.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The FERC has jurisdiction over the licensing of hydroelectric projects, the establishment of rates and charges for transmission of electricity in interstate commerce and electricity sold at wholesale (including the rates for our municipal customers), natural gas transportation, certain accounting and record-keeping practices, certain activities of our regulated utilities, and the operations of ATC. FERC jurisdiction also includes enforcement of NERC mandatory electric reliability standards. Violations of FERC rules are potentially subject to enforcement action by the FERC including financial penalties up to $1 million per day per violation.

Minnesota Power’s non-affiliated municipal customers consist of 16 municipalities in Minnesota and 1 private utility in Wisconsin. SWL&P, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALLETE, is also a private utility in Wisconsin and a customer of Minnesota Power. Minnesota Power’s formula-based contract with the City of Nashwauk is effective April 1, 2013 through June 30, 2024, and the restated formula-based contracts with the remaining 15 Minnesota municipal customers and SWL&P are effective through June 30, 2019. The rates included in these contracts are calculated using a cost-based formula methodology that is set each July 1, using estimated costs and a rate of return that is equal to our authorized rate of return for Minnesota retail customers (currently 10.38 percent). The formula-based rate methodology also provides for a yearly true-up calculation for actual costs incurred. The contract terms include a termination clause requiring a three -year notice to terminate. Under the City of Nashwauk contract, no termination notice may be given prior to July 1, 2021. Under the restated contracts, no termination notices may be given prior to June 30, 2016. A two -year cancellation notice is required for the one private non-affiliated utility in Wisconsin. This customer submitted a cancellation notice with termination effective on December 31, 2013. The 17 MW of average monthly demand provided to this customer is expected to be used to supply energy to prospective customers beginning in 2014.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
17


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Regulatory Matters (Continued)

Public Service Commission of Wisconsin. The PSCW has regulatory authority over SWL&P’s retail sales of electricity, natural gas and water, issuances of securities and other matters.

During 2012, SWL&P’s retail rates were based on a 2010 PSCW retail rate order, which was effective January 1, 2011 . SWL&P’s 2013 retail rates are based on a 2012 PSCW retail rate order, effective January 1, 2013, and allows for a 10.9 percent return on common equity. The new rates reflect an average overall increase of 2.4 percent for retail customers (a 13.8 percent increase in water rates, a 1.2 percent increase in electric rates, and a 2.0 percent decrease in natural gas rates). On an annualized basis, the rate increase will generate approximately $1.7 million in additional revenue.

North Dakota Public Service Commission. The NDPSC has jurisdiction over site and route permitting of generation and transmission facilities in North Dakota.


Regional Organizations

Midwest Independent Transmission System Operator, Inc. (MISO). Minnesota Power and SWL&P are members of MISO, a regional transmission organization. While Minnesota Power and SWL&P retain ownership of their respective transmission assets, their transmission networks are under the regional operational control of MISO. Minnesota Power and SWL&P take and provide transmission service under the MISO open access transmission tariff. MISO continues its efforts to standardize rates, terms, and
conditions of transmission service over its region, which encompasses all or parts of 11 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, and over 100,000 MW of generating capacity.

North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC). The NERC has been certified by the FERC as the national electric reliability organization. The NERC ensures the reliability and security of the North American bulk power system. The NERC oversees eight regional entities that establish requirements, approved by the FERC, for reliable operation and maintenance of power generation facilities and transmission systems. Minnesota Power is subject to these reliability requirements and can incur significant penalties for failing to comply with them.

Midwest Reliability Organization (MRO). Minnesota Power is a member of the MRO, one of the eight regional entities overseen by the NERC that is responsible for: (1) developing and implementing electricity 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 spans the Canadian provinces of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, all of North Dakota, Minnesota, Nebraska and the majority of South Dakota, Iowa and Wisconsin. The region includes more than 100 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.


Minnesota Legislation

Renewable Energy. In February 2007, Minnesota enacted a law requiring 25 percent of Minnesota Power’s total retail and municipal energy sales in Minnesota be from renewable energy sources by 2025. The law also requires Minnesota Power to meet interim milestones of 12 percent by 2012, 17 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. The law allows the MPUC to modify or delay meeting a milestone if implementation will cause significant ratepayer cost or technical reliability issues. If a utility is not in compliance with a milestone, the MPUC may order the utility to construct facilities, purchase renewable energy or purchase renewable energy credits. Minnesota Power met the 2012 milestone and has developed a plan to meet the future renewable milestones which is included in its 2010 Integrated Resource Plan. The MPUC approved the Integrated Resource Plan in its order issued in May 2011. Minnesota Power will submit its next Integrated Resource Plan on March 1, 2013, and include an update on its plans and progress in meeting the Minnesota renewable energy milestones through 2025.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
18


Regulated Operations (Continued)
Minnesota Legislation (Continued)

Minnesota Power has taken several steps in executing its renewable energy strategy through key renewable projects that will ensure we meet the identified state mandate at the lowest cost for customers. We have executed two long-term PPAs with an affiliate of NextEra Energy, Inc. for wind energy in North Dakota (Oliver Wind I and II). Other steps include Taconite Ridge, our 25 MW wind facility located in northeastern Minnesota, and our 292 MW Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota. Approximately 20 percent of the Company’s total retail and municipal energy sales will be supplied by renewable energy sources in 2013.


Competition

Retail electric energy sales in Minnesota and Wisconsin are made to customers in assigned service territories. As a result, most retail electric customers in Minnesota do not have the ability to choose their electric supplier. Large energy users of 2 MW and above that are located outside of a municipality may be allowed to choose a supplier upon MPUC approval. Minnesota Power serves 10 Large Power facilities over 10 MW, none of which have engaged in a competitive rate process. No other large commercial or small industrial customers in Minnesota Power’s service territory have attempted to seek a provider outside Minnesota Power’s service territory since 1994. Retail electric and natural gas customers in Wisconsin do not have the ability to choose their energy supplier. In both states, however, electricity may compete with other forms of energy. Customers may also choose to generate their own electricity, or substitute other forms of energy for their manufacturing processes.

For the year ended December 31, 2012 , 8 percent of the Company’s electric energy sales were to municipal customers in Minnesota and a private non-affiliated utility in Wisconsin by contract under a formula-based rate approved by FERC. These customers have the right to seek an energy supply from any wholesale electric service provider upon contract expiration. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters.)

The FERC has continued with its efforts to promote a more competitive wholesale market through open-access electric transmission and other means. As a result, our electric sales to Other Power Suppliers and our purchases to supply our retail and wholesale load are made in the competitive market.


Franchises

Minnesota Power holds franchises to construct and maintain an electric distribution and transmission system in 94 cities. The remaining cities, villages and towns served by us do not require a franchise to operate. SWL&P serves customers with electric, natural gas and/or water systems in 1 city and 16 villages and towns.


Investments and Other

Investments and Other is comprised primarily of BNI Coal, our coal mining operations in North Dakota, ALLETE Properties, our Florida real estate investment, and ALLETE Clean Energy, our business aimed at developing or acquiring capital projects that create energy solutions via wind, solar, biomass, hydro, natural gas/liquids, shale resources, clean coal and other clean energy innovations. This segment also includes other business development and corporate expenditures, a small amount of non-rate base generation, approximately 6,100  acres of land in Minnesota, and earnings on cash and investments.

BNI Coal

BNI Coal is a supplier of lignite in North Dakota, producing about 4 million tons annually. Two electric generating cooperatives, Minnkota Power and Square Butte, presently consume virtually all of BNI Coal’s production of lignite under a cost plus fixed fee coal supply agreement extending through 2026. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Power Supply – Long-Term Purchased Power and Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.) The mining process disturbs and reclaims between 200 and 250 acres per year. Laws require that the reclaimed land be at least as productive as it was prior to mining. As of December 31, 2012 , BNI had a $11.0 million asset reclamation obligation ($10.3 million at December 31, 2011 ) included in other non-current liabilities on our Consolidated Balance Sheet. These costs are included in the cost plus fixed fee contract, for which an asset reclamation cost receivable was included in other non-current assets on our Consolidated Balance Sheet. The asset reclamation obligation is guaranteed by surety bonds and a letter of credit. (See Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.) BNI Coal has lignite reserves of an estimated 650 million tons.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
19


Investments and Other (Continued)

ALLETE Properties

ALLETE Properties represents our Florida real estate investment. Our current strategy for the assets is to complete and maintain key entitlements and infrastructure improvements without requiring significant additional investment, sell the portfolio when opportunities arise and reinvest the proceeds in our growth initiatives. ALLETE does not intend to acquire additional Florida real estate.

Our two major development projects are Town Center and Palm Coast Park. Another major project, Ormond Crossings, is in the permitting stage. The City of Ormond Beach, Florida, approved a development agreement for Ormond Crossings which will facilitate development of the project as currently planned. Separately, the Lake Swamp wetland mitigation bank was permitted on land that was previously part of Ormond Crossings. See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Outlook for more information on ALLETE Properties’ land holdings.

Seller Financing. ALLETE Properties occasionally provides seller financing to certain qualified buyers. At December 31, 2012 , outstanding finance receivables were $1.4 million, net of reserves, with maturities through 2014. These finance receivables accrue interest at market-based rates and are collateralized by the financed properties.

Regulation. A substantial portion of our development properties in Florida are subject to federal, state and local regulations, and restrictions that may impose significant costs or limitations on our ability to develop the properties. Much of our property is vacant land and some is located in areas where development may affect the natural habitats of various protected wildlife species or in sensitive environmental areas such as wetlands.


ALLETE Clean Energy

In June 2011, we established ALLETE Clean Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALLETE. ALLETE Clean Energy operates independently of Minnesota Power to develop or acquire capital projects aimed at creating energy solutions via wind, solar, biomass, hydro, natural gas/liquids, shale resources, clean coal and other clean energy innovations. ALLETE Clean Energy intends to market to electric utilities, cooperatives, municipalities, independent power marketers and large end-users across North America through long-term contracts or other sale arrangements. In August 2011, the Company filed with the MPUC for approval of certain affiliated interest agreements between ALLETE and ALLETE Clean Energy. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters.)


Non-Rate Base Generation

As of December 31, 2012 , non-rate base generation   consists of 29 MW of generation at Rapids Energy Center. In 2012 , we sold 0.1 million MWh of non-rate base generation (0.1 million in 2011 and 0.1 million in 2010 ).
Non-Rate Base Power Supply
Unit No.
Year
Installed
Year
Acquired
Net
Capability (MW)
Rapids Energy Center (a)
 
 
 
 
in Grand Rapids, MN
 
 
 
 
Steam – Biomass (b)
6 & 7
1969, 1980
2000
28
Hydro – Conventional Run-of-River
4 & 5
1917, 1948
2000
1
(a)
The net generation is primarily dedicated to the needs of one customer.
(b)
Rapids Energy Center’s fuel supply is supplemented by coal.

On December 19, 2012, Minnesota Power filed with the MPUC for approval to transfer the assets of Rapids Energy Center from non-rate base generation to Minnesota Power’s Regulated Operations (see Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters.).



ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
20


Environmental Matters

Our businesses are subject to regulation of environmental matters by various federal, state and local authorities. Currently, a number of regulatory changes to the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and various waste management requirements are under consideration by both Congress and the EPA. Minnesota Power’s fossil fuel facilities will likely be subject to regulation under these proposals. Our intention is to reduce our exposure to these requirements by reshaping our generation portfolio over time to reduce our reliance on coal.

We consider our businesses to be in substantial compliance with currently applicable environmental regulations and believe all necessary permits to conduct such operations have been obtained. Due to expected future restrictive environmental requirements imposed through legislation and/or rulemaking, we anticipate that potential expenditures for environmental matters will be material and will require significant capital investments. Minnesota Power has evaluated various environmental compliance scenarios using possible ranges of future environmental regulations to project power supply trends and impacts on customers. (See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Outlook – EnergyForward.)

We review environmental matters on a quarterly basis. Accruals for environmental matters are recorded when it is probable that a liability has been incurred and the amount of the liability can be reasonably estimated, based on current law and existing technologies. Accruals are adjusted as assessment and remediation efforts progress or as additional technical or legal information becomes available. Accruals for environmental liabilities are included in the Consolidated Balance Sheet at undiscounted amounts and exclude claims for recoveries from insurance or other third parties. Costs related to environmental contamination treatment and cleanup are charged to expense unless recoverable in rates from customers.

Air. The electric utility industry is heavily regulated both at the federal and state level to address air emissions. Minnesota Power’s generating facilities mainly burn low-sulfur western sub-bituminous coal. All of Minnesota Power’s coal-fired generating facilities are equipped with pollution control equipment such as scrubbers, bag houses and low NO X technologies. Under currently applicable environmental regulations, these facilities are substantially compliant with applicable emission requirements.

New Source Review (NSR) . In August 2008, Minnesota Power received a Notice of Violation (NOV) from the EPA asserting violations of the NSR requirements of the Clean Air Act at Boswell Units 1, 2, 3 and 4 and Laskin Unit 2. The NOV asserts that seven projects undertaken at these coal-fired plants between the years 1981 and 2000 should have been reviewed under the NSR requirements and that the Boswell Unit 4 Title V permit was violated. In April 2011, Minnesota Power received a NOV alleging that two projects undertaken at Rapids Energy Center in 2004 and 2005 should have been reviewed under the NSR requirements and that the Rapids Energy Center’s Title V permit was violated. Minnesota Power believes the projects specified in the NOVs were in full compliance with the Clean Air Act, NSR requirements and applicable permits. Resolution of the NOVs will likely result in civil penalties, which we do not believe will be material to our results of operations, and the installation of additional pollution control equipment, some of which is already planned or which has been completed to comply with other regulatory requirements. We are engaged in discussions with the EPA regarding resolution of these matters, but we are unable to estimate the expenditures, or range of expenditures that may be required upon resolution. Any costs of installing additional pollution control equipment would likely be eligible for recovery in rates over time subject to regulatory approval in a rate proceeding.

Cross-State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) . In July 2011, the EPA issued the CSAPR, which replaced the EPA’s 2005 CAIR. However, on August 21, 2012, a three judge panel of the District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the CSAPR, ordering that the CAIR remain in effect while a CSAPR replacement rule is promulgated. The EPA and other parties to the case have until April 24, 2013, to request that the Supreme Court review the matter. The CSAPR would have required states in the CSAPR region, including Minnesota, to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states. The CSAPR did not directly require the installation of controls. Instead, the rule would have required facilities to have sufficient emission allowances to cover their emissions on an annual basis. These allowances would have been allocated to facilities from each state’s annual budget and would also have been able to be bought and sold.

The CAIR regulations similarly require certain states to improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to ozone and/or fine particle pollution in other states. The CAIR also created an allowance allocation and trading program rather than specifying pollution controls. Minnesota participation in the CAIR was stayed by EPA administrative action while the EPA completed a review of air quality modeling issues in conjunction with the development of a final replacement rule. While the CAIR remains in effect, Minnesota participation in the CAIR will continue to be stayed. It remains uncertain if emission restrictions similar to those contained in the CSAPR will become effective for Minnesota utilities due to the August 2012 District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals decision.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Environmental Matters (Continued)
Air (Continued)

Since 2006, we have significantly reduced emissions at our Laskin, Taconite Harbor and Boswell generating units. Based on our expected generation, these emission reductions would have satisfied Minnesota Power’s SO 2 and NO X emission compliance obligations with respect to the EPA-allocated CSAPR allowances for 2012. Minnesota Power will continue to track the EPA activity related to promulgation of a CSAPR replacement rule. We are unable to predict any additional compliance costs we might incur if the CSAPR is reinstated or if a CSAPR replacement rule is promulgated.

Regional Haze . The federal Regional Haze Rule requires states to submit SIPs to the EPA to address regional haze visibility impairment in 156 federally-protected parks and wilderness areas. Under the first phase of the Regional Haze Rule, certain large stationary sources, put in place between 1962 and 1977, with emissions contributing to visibility impairment, are required to install emission controls, known as Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART). We have two steam units, Boswell Unit 3 and Taconite Harbor Unit 3, that are subject to BART requirements.

The MPCA requested that companies with BART-eligible units complete and submit a BART emissions control retrofit study, which was completed for Taconite Harbor Unit 3 in November 2008. The retrofit work completed in 2009 at Boswell Unit 3 meets the BART requirements for that unit. In December 2009, the MPCA approved the Minnesota SIP for submittal to the EPA for its review and approval. The Minnesota SIP incorporates information from the BART emissions control retrofit studies that were completed as requested by the MPCA.

In December 2011, the EPA published in the Federal Register a proposal to approve the trading program in the CSAPR as an alternative to determining BART. However, as a result of the August 2012 District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals decision to vacate the CSAPR (See CSAPR), Minnesota Power is now evaluating whether significant additional expenditures at Taconite Harbor Unit 3 will be required to comply with BART requirements under the Regional Haze Rule. If additional regional haze related controls are ultimately required, Minnesota Power will have up to five years from the final rule promulgation to bring Taconite Harbor Unit 3 into compliance with the Regional Haze Rule requirements. It is uncertain what controls would ultimately be required at Taconite Harbor Unit 3 under this scenario. On January 30, 2013, Minnesota Power announced “EnergyForward”, a strategic plan for assuring reliability, protecting affordability and further improving environmental performance. The plan includes retiring Taconite Harbor Unit 3 in 2015, subject to MPUC approval. (See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Outlook – EnergyForward.)
 
Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule (formerly known as the Electric Generating Unit Maximum Achievable Control Technology (MACT) Rule). Under Section 112 of the Clean Air Act, the EPA is required to set emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) for certain source categories. The EPA published the final MATS rule in the Federal Register on February 16, 2012, addressing such emissions from coal-fired utility units greater than 25 MW. There are currently 187 listed HAPs that the EPA is required to evaluate for establishment of MACT standards. In the final MATS rule, the EPA established categories of HAPs, including mercury, trace metals other than mercury, acid gases, dioxin/furans, and organics other than dioxin/furans. The EPA also established emission limits for the first three categories of HAPs, and work practice standards for the remaining categories. Affected sources must be in compliance with the rule by April 2015. States have the authority to grant sources a one-year extension. Minnesota Power was notified by the MPCA that they have approved Minnesota Power’s request of an additional year extending the date of compliance for the Boswell Unit 4 retrofit to April 1, 2016. Compliance at our Boswell Unit 4 to address the final MATS rule is expected to result in capital expenditures totaling between $350 million and $400 million through 2016. Our “EnergyForward” plan also includes the conversion of Laskin Units 1 and 2 to natural gas addressing the MATS requirements. (See Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations – Outlook – EnergyForward.)

EPA National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants for Major Sources: Industrial, Commercial and Institutional Boilers and Process Heaters . In March 2011, a final rule was published in the Federal Register for industrial boiler maximum achievable control technology (Industrial Boiler MACT). The rule was stayed by the EPA in May 2011, to allow the EPA time to consider additional comments received. The EPA re-proposed the rule in December 2011. On January 9, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA stay of the Industrial Boiler MACT was unlawful, effectively reinstating the March 2011 rule and associated compliance deadlines. A final rule based on the December 2011 proposal, which supersedes the March 2011 rule, was released on December 21, 2012. Major sources have three years to achieve compliance with the final rule. Minnesota Power is in the process of assessing the impact of this rule on our affected units including the Hibbard Renewable Energy Center and Rapids Energy Center. Costs for complying with the final rule cannot be estimated at this time.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Environmental Matters (Continued)

Minnesota Mercury Emissions Reduction Act . Under the 2006 Minnesota Mercury Emissions Reduction Act, Minnesota Power is required to implement a mercury emissions reduction project for Boswell Unit 4 by December 31, 2018. On August 31, 2012, Minnesota Power filed its mercury emissions reduction plan for Boswell Unit 4 with the MPUC and the MPCA. The plan proposes that Minnesota Power install pollution controls to address both the Minnesota mercury emissions reduction requirements and the Federal MATS rule, which also regulates mercury emissions. Minnesota Power's request of an additional year extending the date of compliance for the Boswell Unit 4 retrofit to April 1, 2016, was approved by the MPCA. Costs to implement the Boswell Unit 4 mercury emissions reduction plan are included in the estimated capital expenditures required for compliance with the MATS rule discussed above.

Proposed and Finalized National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS). The EPA is required to review the NAAQS every five years. If the EPA determines that a state’s air quality is not in compliance with a NAAQS, the state is required to adopt plans describing how it will reduce emissions to attain the NAAQS. These state plans often include more stringent air emission limitations on sources of air pollutants than the NAAQS. Four NAAQS have either recently been revised or are currently proposed for revision, as described below.

Ozone NAAQS. The EPA has proposed to more stringently control emissions that result in ground level ozone. In January 2010, the EPA proposed to revise the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard and to adopt a secondary standard for the protection of sensitive vegetation from ozone-related damage. The EPA was scheduled to decide upon the 2008 eight-hour ozone standard in July 2011, but has since announced that it is deferring revision of this standard until 2013.

Particulate Matter NAAQS. The EPA finalized the NAAQS Particulate Matter standards in September 2006. Since then, the EPA has established a more stringent 24-hour average fine particulate matter (PM 2.5 ) standard; the annual PM 2.5 standard and the 24-hour coarse particulate matter standard have remained unchanged. The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit remanded the annual PM 2.5 standard to the EPA, requiring consideration of lower annual standard values. The EPA proposed new PM 2.5 standards on June 14, 2012.

On December 14, 2012, the EPA confirmed in a final rule that the current annual PM 2.5 standard, which has been in place since 1997, will be lowered, while retaining the current 24-hour PM 2.5 standard. To implement the new lower annual PM 2.5 standard, the EPA is also revising aspects of relevant monitoring, designations and permitting requirements. New projects and permits must comply with the new lower standard, and compliance with the NAAQS at the facility level is generally demonstrated by modeling. To bridge the transition to the lower standard, the EPA is finalizing a grandfathering provision to ensure that projects and pending permits already underway are not unduly delayed.

Under the final rule, states will be responsible for additional PM 2.5 monitoring, which will likely be accomplished by relocation or repurposing of existing monitors. States are expected to propose attainment designations by December 2013, based on already available monitoring data. The EPA believes that most U.S. counties currently already meet the new standard and plans to finalize designations of attainment by December 2014. For those counties that the EPA does not designate as having already met the requirements of the new standard, specific dates for required attainment will depend on technology availability, state permitting goals, potential legal challenges and other factors.

SO 2 and NO 2 NAAQS. During 2010, the EPA finalized new one-hour NAAQS for SO 2 and NO 2 . Ambient monitoring data indicates that Minnesota will likely be in compliance with these new standards; however, the one-hour SO 2 NAAQS also require the EPA to evaluate modeling data to determine attainment. The EPA has notified states that their SIPs for attainment of the standard will be required to be submitted to the EPA for approval by June 2013 but will not be required to include the evaluation of modeling data until 2017.

In late 2011, the MPCA initiated modeling activities that included approximately 65 sources within Minnesota that emit greater than 100 tons of SO 2 per year. However, on April 12, 2012, the MPCA notified Minnesota Power that such modeling had been suspended as a result of the EPA’s announcement that the June 2013 SIP submittals would no longer require modeling demonstrations for states, such as Minnesota, where ambient monitors indicate compliance with the new standard. The MPCA is awaiting updated EPA guidance and will communicate with affected sources once the MPCA has more information on how the state will meet the EPA’s SIP requirements. Currently, compliance with these new NAAQS is expected to be required as early as 2017. The costs for complying with the final standards cannot be estimated at this time.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Environmental Matters (Continued)

Climate Change. The scientific community generally accepts that emissions of GHGs are linked to global climate change. Climate change creates physical and financial risk. Physical risks could include, but are not limited to: increased or decreased precipitation and water levels in lakes and rivers; increased temperatures; and the intensity and frequency of extreme weather events. These all have the potential to affect the Company’s business and operations. We are addressing climate change by taking the following steps that also ensure reliable and environmentally compliant generation resources to meet our customers’ requirements:

Expand our renewable energy supply;
Provide energy conservation initiatives for our customers and engage in other demand side efforts;
Support research of technologies to reduce carbon emissions from generation facilities and carbon sequestration efforts; and
Evaluating and developing less carbon intense future generating assets such as efficient and flexible natural gas generating facilities.

EPA Regulation of GHG Emissions.  In May 2010, the EPA issued the final Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) and Title V Greenhouse Gas Tailoring Rule (Tailoring Rule). The Tailoring Rule establishes permitting thresholds required to address GHG emissions for new facilities, at existing facilities that undergo major modifications and at other facilities characterized as major sources under the Clean Air Act’s Title V program. For our existing facilities, the rule does not require amending our existing Title V operating permits to include GHG requirements. However, GHG requirements are likely to be added to our existing Title V operating permits by the MPCA as these permits are renewed or amended.

In late 2010, the EPA issued guidance to permitting authorities and affected sources to facilitate incorporation of the Tailoring Rule permitting requirements into the Title V and PSD permitting programs. The guidance stated that the project-specific, top-down BACT determination process used for other pollutants will also be used to determine BACT for GHG emissions. Through sector-specific white papers, the EPA also provided examples and technical summaries of GHG emission control technologies and techniques the EPA considers available or likely to be available to sources. It is possible that these control technologies could be determined to be BACT on a project-by-project basis.

On March 28, 2012, the EPA announced its proposed rule to apply CO 2 emission New Source Performance Standards (NSPS) to new fossil fuel-fired electric generating units. The proposed NSPS apply only to new or re-powered units and were open for public comment through June 25, 2012. It is anticipated that the EPA will issue NSPS for existing fossil fuel-fired generating units in the future. We cannot predict what CO 2 control measures, if any, may be required by such NSPS.

Legal challenges have been filed with respect to the EPA’s regulation of GHG emissions, including the Tailoring Rule. On June 26, 2012, the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upheld most of the EPA’s proposed regulations, including the Tailoring Rule criteria, finding that the Clean Air Act compels the EPA to regulate in the manner the EPA proposed. Comments to the permitting guidance were submitted by Minnesota Power and others and may be addressed by the EPA in the form of revised guidance documents.

We are unable to predict the GHG emission compliance costs we might incur; however, the costs could be material. We would seek recovery of any additional costs through cost recovery riders or in a general rate case.

Water. The Clean Water Act requires NPDES permits be obtained from the EPA (or, when delegated, from individual state pollution control agencies) for any wastewater discharged into navigable waters. We have obtained all necessary NPDES permits, including NPDES storm water permits for applicable facilities, to conduct our operations.

Clean Water Act - Aquatic Organisms. In April 2011, the EPA published in the Federal Register proposed regulations under Section 316(b) of the Clean Water Act that set standards applicable to cooling water intake structures for the protection of aquatic organisms. The proposed regulations would require existing large power plants and manufacturing facilities that withdraw greater than 25 percent of water from adjacent water bodies for cooling purposes and have a design intake flow of greater than 2 million gallons per day to limit the number of aquatic organisms that are killed when they are pinned against the facility’s intake structure or that are drawn into the facility’s cooling system. The Section 316(b) standards would be implemented through NPDES permits issued to the covered facilities. The Section 316(b) proposed rule comment period ended in August 2011 and the EPA is obligated to finalize the rule by June 27, 2013. We are unable to predict the compliance costs we might incur under the final rule; however, the costs could be material. We would seek recovery of any additional costs through cost recovery riders or in a general rate case.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Environmental Matters (Continued)
Water (Continued)

Steam Electric Power Generating Effluent Guidelines.  In late 2009, the EPA announced that it will be reviewing and reissuing the federal effluent guidelines for steam electric stations. These are the underlying federal water discharge rules that apply to all steam electric stations. It is expected that the EPA will publish the proposed new rule in April 2013 and a final rule in 2014. As part of the review phase for this new rule, the EPA issued an Information Collection Request (ICR) in June 2010, to most thermal electric generating stations in the country, including all five of Minnesota Power’s generating stations. The ICR was completed and submitted to the EPA in September 2010, for Boswell, Laskin, Taconite Harbor, Hibbard and Rapids Energy Center. The ICR was designed to gather extensive information on the nature and extent of all water discharge and related wastewater handling at power plants. The information gathered through the ICR will form a basis for development of the eventual new rule, which could include more restrictive requirements on wastewater discharge, flue gas desulfurization and wet ash handling operations. We are unable to predict the costs we might incur to comply with potential future water discharge regulations at this time.

Solid and Hazardous Waste. The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 regulates the management and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes. We are required to notify the EPA of hazardous waste activity and, consequently, routinely submit the necessary reports to the EPA.

Coal Ash Management Facilities. Minnesota Power generates coal ash at all five of its coal-fired electric generating facilities. Two facilities store ash in onsite impoundments (ash ponds) with engineered liners and containment dikes. Another facility stores dry ash in a landfill with an engineered liner and leachate collection system. Two facilities generate a combined wood and coal ash that is either land applied as an approved beneficial use or trucked to state permitted landfills. In June 2010, the EPA proposed regulations for coal combustion residuals generated by the electric utility sector. The proposal sought comments on three general regulatory schemes for coal ash. Comments on the proposed rule were due in November 2010. It is estimated that the final rule will be published in 2013. We are unable to predict the compliance costs we might incur; however, the costs could be material. We would seek recovery of any additional costs through cost recovery riders or in a general rate case.


Employees

At December 31, 2012 , ALL ETE had 1,361 employees, of which 1,322 were full-time.

Minnesota Power and SWL&P had an aggregate 593 employees who are members of IBEW Local 31. The current labor agreements with IBEW Local 31 expire on January 31, 2014.

BNI Coal had 162 employees, of which 117 are members of IBEW Local 1593. The current labor agreement between BNI Coal and IBEW Local 1593 expires on March 31, 2014.


Availability of Information

ALLETE makes its SEC filings, including its annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q, current reports on Form 8-K and any amendments to those reports filed or furnished pursuant to Section 13(e) or 15(d) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, available free of charge on ALLETE’s website, www.allete.com, as soon as reasonably practicable after they are electronically filed with or furnished to the SEC.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Executive Officers of the Registrant

As of February 15, 2013 , these are the executive officers of ALLETE:

Executive Officers
Initial Effective Date
 
 
Alan R. Hodnik, Age 53
 
Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer – ALLETE
May 10, 2011
President and Chief Executive Officer – ALLETE
May 1, 2010
President – ALLETE
May 1, 2009
Chief Operating Officer – Minnesota Power
May 8, 2007
 
 
Robert J. Adams, Age 50
 
Vice President – Business Development and Chief Risk Officer
May 13, 2008
Vice President – Utility Business Development
February 1, 2004
 
 
Deborah A. Amberg, Age 47
 
Senior Vice President, General Counsel and Secretary
January 1, 2006
 
 
Steven Q. DeVinck, Age 53
 
Controller and Vice President – Business Support
December 5, 2009
Controller
July 12, 2006
 
 
David J. McMillan, Age 51
 
Senior Vice President – External Affairs – ALLETE
January 1, 2012
Senior Vice President – Marketing, Regulatory and Public Affairs – ALLETE
January 1, 2006
Executive Vice President – Minnesota Power
January 1, 2006
 
 
Mark A. Schober, Age 57
 
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
July 1, 2006
 
 
Donald W. Stellmaker, Age 55
 
Vice President, Corporate Treasurer
August 19, 2011
Treasurer
July 24, 2004

All of the executive officers have been employed by us for more than five years in executive positions.

There are no family relationships between any of the executive officers. All officers and directors are elected or appointed annually.
 
The present term of office of the executive officers listed above extends to the first meeting of our Board of Directors after the next annual meeting of shareholders. Both meetings are scheduled for May 14, 2013.



ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Item 1A. Risk Factors

The risks and uncertainties discussed below, as well as other information set forth in this Form 10-K, could materially affect our business, financial condition and results of operations and should be carefully considered by stakeholders. The risks and uncertainties in this section are not the only ones we face. Additional risks and uncertainties that we are not presently aware of, or that we currently consider immaterial, may also affect our business operations.

Our results of operations could be negatively impacted if our Large Power Customers experience an economic downturn, incur work stoppages or fail to compete effectively.

Our 9 Large Power Customers accounted for approximately 33 percent of our 2012 consolidated operating revenue (34 percent in 2011; 31 percent in 2010). One of these customers accounted for 12.3 percent of consolidated revenue in 2012 (12.6 percent in 2011; 12.5 percent in 2010). These customers are involved in cyclical industries that by their nature are adversely impacted by economic downturns and are subject to strong competition in the marketplace. Many of our large power customers also have unionized workforces which put them at risk for work stoppages. In addition, the North American paper and pulp industry also faces declining demand due to the impact of electronic substitution for print and changing customer needs.

Accordingly, if our customers experience an economic downturn, incur a work stoppage (including strikes, lock-outs or other events), fail to compete effectively in the economy, or incur decreased demand for their product, there could be material adverse effects on their operations and, consequently, could have a negative impact on our results of operations if we are unable to remarket at similar prices the energy that would otherwise have been sold to such Large Power Customers.

Our utility 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 including regulations administered by the FERC, the MPUC, the PSCW, the NDPSC and the EPA as well as regulations administered by other organizations including the NERC. These laws and regulations relate to allowed rates of return, capital structure, financings, rate and cost structure, acquisition and disposal of assets and facilities, construction and operation of generation, transmission and distribution facilities (including the ongoing maintenance and reliable operation of such facilities), recovery of purchased power costs and capital investments, approval of integrated resource plans and present or prospective wholesale and retail competition, among other things. Our transmission systems and electric generation facilities are subject to the NERC mandatory reliability standards, including cybersecurity standards. Compliance with these standards may lead to increased operating costs and capital expenditures. If we were found to not be in compliance with these mandatory reliability standards or other statutes, rules and orders, we could incur substantial monetary penalties and other sanctions, which could adversely affect our results of operations. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters.)

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 permits, licenses, approvals and certificates for our existing operations and that our business is conducted in accordance with applicable laws; however, we are unable to predict the impact on our operating results from the future regulatory activities of any of these agencies. Changes in regulations or the imposition of additional regulations could have an adverse impact on our results of operations.

Our ability to obtain rate adjustments to maintain current rates of return depends upon regulatory action under applicable statutes and regulations, and we cannot provide assurance that rate adjustments will be obtained or current authorized rates of return on capital will be earned. Minnesota Power and SWL&P, from time to time, file rate cases with, or otherwise seek cost recovery authorization from, federal and state regulatory authorities. If Minnesota Power and SWL&P do not receive an adequate amount of rate relief in rate cases, including if rates are reduced, if increased rates are not approved on a timely basis or costs are otherwise unable to be recovered through rates, or if cost recovery is not achieved at the requested level, we may experience an adverse impact on our financial condition, results of operations and cash flows. We are unable to predict the impact on our business and results of operations from future legislation or regulatory activities of any of these agencies or organizations.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Item 1A. Risk Factors (Continued)

Our operations could be adversely impacted by the physical risks associated with climate change.

The scientific community generally accepts that emissions of GHGs are linked to global climate change. Physical risks of climate change, such as more frequent or more extreme weather events, changes in temperature and precipitation patterns, changes to ground and surface water availability, and other related phenomena, could affect some, or all, of our operations. Severe weather or other natural disasters could be destructive, which could result in increased costs. An extreme weather event within our utility service areas can also directly affect our capital assets, causing disruption in service to customers due to downed wires and poles or damage to other operating equipment. These all have the potential to adversely affect our business and operations.

Our operations could be adversely impacted by initiatives designed to reduce the impact of GHG emissions such as CO 2   from our generating facilities.

Proposals for voluntary initiatives to reduce GHGs such as CO 2 , a by-product of burning fossil fuels, have been discussed within Minnesota, among a group of Midwestern states that includes Minnesota and in the United States Congress. Coal is currently the primary fuel source for 92 percent of the energy produced by our generating facilities.

There is significant uncertainty regarding whether new laws or regulations will be adopted to reduce GHGs and what affect any such laws or regulations would have on us. Future limits on GHG emissions would likely require us to incur significant increases in capital expenditures and operating costs, which if excessive, could result in the closure of certain coal-fired energy centers, impairment of assets, or otherwise materially adversely affect our results of operations, particularly if implementation costs are not fully recoverable from customers.

Our operations pose certain environmental risks that could adversely affect our results of operations and financial condition.

We are subject to extensive environmental laws and regulations affecting many aspects of our present and future operations, including air quality, water quality, waste management, reclamation, hazardous wastes and natural resources. These laws and regulations can result in increased capital, environmental emission allowance trading, operating and other costs, as a result of compliance, remediation, containment and monitoring obligations, particularly with regard to laws relating to power plant emissions, coal ash and water discharge.

These laws and regulations could restrict the output of some existing facilities, limit the use of some fuels required for the production of electricity, require additional pollution control equipment, require participation in environmental emission allowance trading, and/or lead to other environmental considerations and costs, which could have a material adverse impact on our business, operations and results of operations.

These laws and regulations generally require us to obtain and comply with a wide variety of environmental licenses, permits, inspections and other approvals. Both governmental authorities and private parties may seek to enforce applicable environmental laws and regulations. We cannot predict the financial or operational outcome of any related litigation that may arise.

Existing environmental regulations may be revised and new regulations seeking to protect the environment 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 adverse effect on our results of operations.

We cannot predict the amount or timing of all future expenditures related to environmental matters because of the uncertainty as to applicable regulations or requirements. There is also uncertainty in quantifying liabilities under environmental laws that impose joint and several liability on all potentially responsible parties. Violations of certain environmental statutes, rules and regulations could expose ALLETE to third party disputes and potentially significant monetary penalties, as well as other sanctions for non-compliance.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
28


Item 1A. Risk Factors (Continued)

We rely on access to financing sources and capital markets. If we do not have access to sufficient capital in the amounts and at the times needed, our ability to execute our business plans, make capital expenditures or pursue other strategic actions that we may otherwise rely on for future growth could be impaired.

We rely on access to capital markets as sources of liquidity for capital requirements not satisfied by our cash flow from operations. If we are not able to access capital on satisfactory terms, the 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 capital markets. Such disruptions could include a severe prolonged economic downturn, the financial distress of non-affiliated industry leaders of other electric utility companies or the financial services sector, deterioration in capital market conditions, or volatility in commodity prices.

The operation and maintenance of our generating facilities involve risks that could significantly increase the cost of doing business.

The operation of generating facilities involves many risks, including start-up operations risks, breakdown or failure of facilities, the dependence on a specific fuel source, inadequate fuel supply, or availability of fuel transportation, or the impact of unusual or adverse weather conditions or other natural events, as well as the risk of performance below expected levels of output or efficiency, the occurrence of any of which could result in lost revenues, increased expenses or both. A significant portion of Minnesota Power’s facilities were constructed many years ago. In particular, older generating equipment, even if maintained in accordance with good engineering practices, may require significant capital expenditures to continue operating at peak efficiency. This equipment is also likely to require periodic upgrades and improvements due to changing environmental standards and technological advances. Minnesota Power could be subject to costs associated with any unexpected failure to produce power, including failure caused by breakdown or forced outage, as well as repairing damage to facilities due to storms, natural disasters, wars, sabotage, terrorist acts and other catastrophic events. Further, our ability to successfully and timely complete capital improvements to existing facilities or other capital projects is contingent upon many variables and subject to substantial risks. Should any such efforts be unsuccessful, we could be subject to additional costs and/or the write-off of our investment in the project or improvement.

Our electrical generating operations may not have access to adequate and reliable transmission and distribution facilities necessary to deliver electricity to our customers.

Minnesota Power depends on its own transmission and distribution facilities, and facilities owned by other utilities, to deliver the electricity produced and sold to our customers, and to other energy suppliers. If transmission capacity is inadequate, our ability to sell and deliver electricity may be hindered. We may have to forgo sales or may have to buy more expensive wholesale electricity that is available in the capacity-constrained area. In addition, any infrastructure failure that interrupts or impairs delivery of electricity to our customers could negatively impact the satisfaction of our customers with our service, which could have a material impact on our business, operations or results of operations.

The price of electricity and fuel may be volatile.

Volatility in market prices for electricity and fuel could adversely impact our results of operations and financial condition and may result from:

severe or unexpected weather conditions and natural disasters;
seasonality;
changes in electricity usage;
transmission or transportation constraints, inoperability or inefficiencies;
availability of competitively priced alternative energy sources;
changes in supply and demand for energy;
changes in power production capacity;
outages at Minnesota Power’s generating facilities or those of our competitors;
availability of fuel transportation;
changes in production and storage levels of natural gas, lignite, coal, crude oil and refined products;
wars, sabotage, terrorist acts or other catastrophic events; and
federal, state, local and foreign energy, environmental, or other regulation and legislation.

Since fluctuations in fuel expense related to our regulated utility operations are passed on to customers through our fuel clause, risk of volatility in market prices for fuel and electricity primarily impacts our sales to Other Power Suppliers.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
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Item 1A. Risk Factors (Continued)

The inability to attract and retain a qualified workforce including, but not limited to, executive officers, key employees and employees with specialized skills, could have an adverse effect on our operations.

The success of our business heavily depends on the leadership of our executive officers and key employees to implement our business strategy. The inability to maintain a qualified workforce including, but not limited to, executive officers, key employees and employees with specialized skills, may negatively affect our ability to service our existing or new customers, or successfully manage our business or achieve our business objectives. Personnel costs may increase due to competitive pressures or terms of collective bargaining agreements with union employees. We believe we have good relations with our members of IBEW Local 31 and IBEW Local 1593, and have contracts in place through January 31, 2014, and March 31, 2014, respectively.

Market performance and other changes could decrease the value of pension and postretirement benefit plan assets, which may result in significant additional funding requirements and increased annual expenses.

The performance of the capital markets affects the values of the assets that are held in trust to satisfy future obligations under our pension and postretirement benefit plans. We have significant obligations to these plans and the trusts hold significant assets. These assets are subject to market fluctuations and will yield uncertain returns, which may fall below our projected rates of return. A decline in the market value of the pension and postretirement benefit plan assets would increase the funding requirements under our benefit plans if asset returns do not recover. Additionally, our pension and postretirement benefit plan liabilities are sensitive to changes in interest rates. As interest rates decrease, the liabilities increase, potentially increasing benefit expense and funding requirements. Our pension and postretirement benefit plan costs are generally recoverable in our electric rates as allowed by our regulators. However, there is no certainty that regulators will continue to allow recovery of these rising costs in the future.

Emerging technologies may adversely affect our business operations.

While the pace of technology development has been increasing, the basic structure of energy production, sale and delivery upon which our business model is based has remained substantially unchanged. The development of new commercially viable technology in areas such as distributed generation, energy storage and energy conservation could fundamentally change demand for our current products and services.

We may be vulnerable to cyber attacks.

We could be subject to computer viruses, terrorism, theft and sabotage, which may disrupt our operations and/or adversely impact our results of operations. Our generation plants, fuel storage facilities, and transmission and distribution facilities may be targets of cyber-terrorist activities that could disrupt our ability to produce or distribute some portion of our energy products. We operate in a highly regulated industry that requires the continued operation of sophisticated information technology systems and network infrastructure. Our technology systems may be vulnerable to disability, failures or unauthorized access due to hacking, viruses, acts of war or terrorism and other causes. If our technology systems were to fail or be breached and we were unable to recover in a timely manner, we may be unable to fulfill critical business functions and sensitive, confidential and other data could be compromised, which could have a material adverse effect on our results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.

The results from any acquisitions of assets or businesses made by us, or strategic investments that we may make, may not achieve the results that we expect or seek and may adversely affect our financial condition and results of operations.

Acquisitions are subject to uncertainties. If we are unable to successfully manage future acquisitions or strategic investments it could have an adverse impact on our results of operations. Our actual results may also differ from our expectations due to factors such as the ability to obtain timely regulatory or governmental approvals, integration and operational issues and the ability to retain management and other key personnel.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
30


Item 1A. Risk Factors (Continued)

We may not be able to successfully implement our strategic objectives of growing load at the utility, due to the inability of current and potential industrial customers to obtain necessary governmental permits in order to successfully implement expansion plans.

As part of our long-term strategy, we pursue new wholesale and retail loads in and around our service territory. Currently, there are several companies in northeastern Minnesota that are in the process of developing natural resource-based projects that represent long-term growth potential and load diversity for Minnesota Power. These projects may include construction of new facilities and restarts of old facilities, both of which require permitting and/or approvals to be obtained before the projects can be successfully implemented. If a project cannot be implemented due to certain governmental (including environmental) permits and approvals not being obtained, our long-term strategy and thus our results of operations could be adversely impacted.

Weak real estate market conditions in Florida may continue to adversely affect our strategy to sell our Florida real estate.

ALLETE intends to sell its Florida land assets when opportunities arise. However, if weak market conditions continue, the impact on our future operations would be the continuation of little to no sales while still incurring operating expenses such as community development district assessments and property taxes which could result in continued annual net operating losses at ALLETE Properties. The properties could also be at risk for impairment which could adversely impact our results of operations. (See Note 1. Operations and Significant Accounting Policies – Impairment of Long-Lived Assets.)


Item 1B. Unresolved Staff Comments

None.


Item 2. Properties

A discussion of our properties is included in Item 1. Business and is incorporated by reference herein.


Item 3. Legal Proceedings

A discussion of material legal and regulatory proceedings is included in Item 1. Business and is incorporated by reference herein.

United Taconite Lawsuit. In January 2011, the Company was named as a defendant in a lawsuit in the Sixth Judicial District for the State of Minnesota by one of our customer’s (United Taconite, LLC) property and business interruption insurers. In October 2006, United Taconite experienced a fire as a result of the failure of certain electrical protective equipment. The equipment at issue in the incident was not owned, designed, or installed by Minnesota Power, but Minnesota Power had provided testing and calibration services related to the equipment. The lawsuit alleges approximately $20 million in damages related to the fire. The Company believes that it has strong defenses to the lawsuit and intends to vigorously assert such defenses. An accrual related to any damages that may result from the lawsuit has not been recorded as of December 31, 2012 , because a potential loss is not currently probable or reasonably estimable; however, the Company believes it has adequate insurance coverage for potential loss.

We are involved in litigation arising in the normal course of business. Also in the normal course of business, we are involved in tax, regulatory and other governmental audits, inspections, investigations and other proceedings that involve state and federal taxes, safety, compliance with regulations, rate base and cost of service issues, among other things. We do not expect the outcome of these matters to have a material effect on our financial position, results of operations or cash flows.


Item 4. Mine Safety Disclosures

Information concerning mine safety violations or other regulatory matters required by Section 1503(a) of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act and Item 104 of Regulation S-K is included in Exhibit 95 to this Form 10-K.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
31


Part II

Item 5. Market for Registrant’s Common Equity, Related Stockholder Matters and Issuer Purchases of Equity Securities

Our common stock is listed on the NYSE under the symbol ALE. We have paid dividends, without interruption, on our common stock since 1948. A quarterly dividend of $0.475 per share on our common stock is payable on March 1, 2013, to the shareholders of record on February 15, 2013 .

The following table shows dividends declared per share, and the high and low prices of our common stock for the periods indicated as reported by the NYSE:
 
 
2012
 
 
2011
 
 
Price Range
Dividends
Price Range
Dividends
Quarter
High
Low
Declared
High
Low
Declared
First
$42.49
$39.98

$0.46

$39.36
$36.33

$0.445

Second
$41.99
$38.03
0.46

$41.43
$37.87
0.445

Third
$42.66
$40.33
0.46

$42.10
$35.51
0.445

Fourth
$42.09
$37.73
0.46

$42.54
$35.14
0.445

Annual Total
 
 

$1.84

 
 

$1.78


At February 1, 2013, there were approximately 26,000 common stock shareholders of record.



ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
32


Item 6. Selected Financial Data

 
2012

2011

2010

2009

2008

Millions
 
 
 
 
 
Operating Revenue

$961.2


$928.2


$907.0


$759.1


$801.0

Operating Expenses
806.0

778.2

771.2

653.1

679.2

Net Income
97.1

93.6

74.8

60.7

83.0

Less: Non-Controlling Interest in Subsidiaries  (a)

(0.2
)
(0.5
)
(0.3
)
0.5

Net Income Attributable to ALLETE
97.1

93.8

75.3

61.0

82.5

Common Stock Dividends
69.1

62.1

60.8

56.5

50.4

Earnings Retained in Business

$28.0


$31.7


$14.5


$4.5


$32.1

Shares Outstanding – Millions
 
 
 
 
 
Year-End
39.4

37.5

35.8

35.2

32.6

Average (b)
 
 
 
 
 
Basic
37.6

35.3

34.2

32.2

29.2

Diluted
37.6

35.4

34.3

32.2

29.3

Diluted Earnings Per Share

$2.58


$2.65


$2.19


$1.89


$2.82

Total Assets

$3,253.4


$2,876.0


$2,609.1


$2,393.1


$2,134.8

Long-Term Debt
933.6

857.9

771.6

695.8

588.3

Return on Common Equity
8.6
%
9.1
%
7.8
%
6.9
%
10.7
%
Common Equity Ratio
54
%
56
%
56
%
57
%
58
%
Dividends Declared per Common Share

$1.84


$1.78


$1.76


$1.76


$1.72

Dividend Payout Ratio
71
%
67
%
80
%
93
%
61
%
Book Value Per Share at Year-End

$30.50


$28.77


$27.25


$26.39


$25.37

Capital Expenditures by Segment
 
 
 
 
 
Regulated Operations

$418.2


$228.0


$256.4


$299.2


$317.0

Investments and Other
14.0

18.8

3.6

4.5

5.9

Total Capital Expenditures

$432.2


$246.8


$260.0


$303.7


$322.9

(a)
In 2011, the remaining shares of the ALLETE Properties non-controlling interest were purchased.
(b)
Excludes unallocated ESOP shares.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
33


Item 7. Management’s Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations

The following discussion should be read in conjunction with our consolidated financial statements and notes to those statements and the other financial information appearing elsewhere in this report. In addition to historical information, the following discussion and other parts of this report contain forward-looking information that involves risks and uncertainties. Readers are cautioned that forward-looking statements should be read in conjunction with our disclosures in this Form 10-K under the headings: “Forward-Looking Statements” located on page 6 and “Risk Factors” located in Item 1A. The risks and uncertainties described in this Form 10-K are not the only ones facing our Company. Additional risks and uncertainties that we are not presently aware of, or that we currently consider immaterial, may also affect our business operations. Our business, financial condition or results of operations could suffer if the concerns set forth in this Form 10-K are realized.

Overview

Regulated Operations includes our regulated utilities, Minnesota Power and SWL&P, as well as our investment in ATC, a Wisconsin-based regulated utility that owns and maintains electric transmission assets in parts of Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota and Illinois. Minnesota Power provides regulated utility electric service in northeastern Minnesota to approximately 143,000 retail customers. Minnesota Power’s non-affiliated municipal customers consist of 16 municipalities in Minnesota and 1 private utility in Wisconsin. SWL&P is also a private utility in Wisconsin and a customer of Minnesota Power. SWL&P provides regulated electric, natural gas and water service in northwestern Wisconsin to approximately 15,000 electric customers, 12,000 natural gas customers and 10,000 water customers. Our regulated utility operations include retail and wholesale activities under the jurisdiction of state and federal regulatory authorities . (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters.)

Investments and Other is comprised primarily of BNI Coal, our coal mining operations in North Dakota, ALLETE Properties, our Florida real estate investment, and ALLETE Clean Energy, our business aimed at developing or acquiring capital projects that create energy solutions via wind, solar, biomass, hydro, natural gas/liquids, shale resources, clean coal and other clean energy innovations. This segment also includes other business development and corporate expenditures, a small amount of non-rate base generation, approximately 6,100  acres of land in Minnesota, and earnings on cash and investments.

ALLETE is incorporated under the laws of Minnesota. Our corporate headquarters are in Duluth, Minnesota. Statistical information is presented as of December 31, 2012 , unless otherwise indicated. All subsidiaries are wholly-owned unless otherwise specifically indicated. References in this report to “we,” “us” and “our” are to ALLETE and its subsidiaries, collectively.

2012 Financial Overview

The following net income discussion summarizes a comparison of the year ended December 31, 2012 , to the year ended December 31, 2011 .

Consolidated net income attributable to ALLETE for 2012 was $97.1 million , or $2.58 per diluted share, compared to $93.8 million , or $2.65 per diluted share, for 2011 . Net income for 2011 included the reversal of a $6.2 million, or $0.18 per share, deferred tax liability related to a revenue receivable Minnesota Power agreed to forgo as part of a stipulation and settlement agreement in its 2010 rate case. Net income for 2011 also included the recognition of a $2.9 million, or $0.08 per share, income tax benefit related to the MPUC approval of our request to defer the retail portion of the tax charge taken in 2010 resulting from the PPACA. Net income for 2012 reflected higher cost recovery rider revenue and renewable tax credits and increased sales to our industrial customers. These increases were partially offset by increased operation and maintenance, depreciation and interest expenses, as well as higher costs under our Square Butte PPA. Earnings per share dilution was $0.16 as a result of additional shares of common stock outstanding in 2012 . (See Note 12. Common Stock and Earnings Per Share.)

Regulated Operations net income attributable to ALLETE was $96.1 million in 2012 , compared to $100.4 million in 2011 . Net income for 2011 included the reversal of a $6.2 million, or $0.18 per share, deferred tax liability related to a revenue receivable Minnesota Power agreed to forgo as part of a stipulation and settlement agreement in its 2010 rate case. Net income for 2011 also included the recognition of a $2.9 million, or $0.08 per share, income tax benefit related to the MPUC approval of our request to defer the retail portion of the tax charge taken in 2010 resulting from the PPACA. Net income for 2012 reflected higher cost recovery rider revenue and renewable tax credits, and increased sales to industrial customers. These increases were partially offset by increased operating and maintenance, depreciation and interest expenses, as well as higher costs under our Square Butte PPA.

Investments and Other reflected net income attributable to ALLETE of $1.0 million for 2012 , compared to a net loss of $6.6 million in 2011 . The increase in 2012 was primarily due to lower state income tax and interest expense, partially offset by increased business development expenses.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
34


2012 Compared to 2011

(See Note 2. Business Segments for financial results by segment.)

Regulated Operations

Operating Revenue increased $22.5 million , or 3 percent , from 2011 primarily due to higher cost recovery rider revenue and transmission revenue, partially offset by lower fuel adjustment clause recoveries, lower revenue from our municipal customers and a 0.7 percent decrease in kilowatt-hours sold.

Cost recovery rider revenue increased $22.1 million due to higher capital expenditures related to our Bison Wind Energy Center and CapX2020 projects.

Transmission revenue increased $7.3 million primarily due to higher MISO Regional Expansion Criteria and Benefits (RECB) revenue related to our investment in CapX2020.

Fuel adjustment clause recoveries decreased $1.7 million due to lower fuel and purchased power costs attributable to our retail and municipal customers. (See Operating Expenses - Fuel and Purchased Power Expense. )

Revenue from our municipal customers decreased $1.6 million primarily due to period-over-period fluctuations in the true-up for actual costs provisions of the contracts. The rates included in these contracts are calculated using a cost-based formula methodology that is set at July 1 each year using estimated costs and a true-up for actual costs the following year.

Revenue from Regulated Operations decreased $1.1 million due to a 0.7 percent reduction in kilowatt-hour sales. The decrease in kilowatt-hour sales was primarily due to lower sales to residential customers and Other Power Suppliers. Residential sales, as compared to 2011, were down primarily due to unseasonably warm weather during the first four months of 2012; heating degree days in Duluth, Minnesota were approximately 22 percent lower than in the first four months of 2011. Total kilowatt-hour sales to Other Power Suppliers decreased 9.3 percent from 2011. Sales to Other Power Suppliers are sold at market-based prices into the MISO market on a daily basis or through bilateral agreements of various durations. These decreases were partially offset by higher sales to our industrial customers, which increased 1.9 percent over 2011.

 
Kilowatt-hours Sold
2012

2011

Quantity
Variance
%
Variance
Millions
 
 
 
 
Regulated Utility
 
 
 
 
Retail and Municipals
 
 
 
 
Residential
1,132

1,159

(27
)
(2.3
)
Commercial
1,436

1,433

3

0.2

Industrial
7,502

7,365

137

1.9

Municipals
1,020

1,013

7

0.7

Total Retail and Municipals
11,090

10,970

120

1.1

Other Power Suppliers
1,999

2,205

(206
)
(9.3
)
Total Regulated Utility Kilowatt-hours Sold
13,089

13,175

(86
)
(0.7
)

Revenue from electric sales to taconite customers accounted for 26 percent of consolidated operating revenue in 2012 (26 percent in 2011 ). Revenue from electric sales to paper, pulp and wood product customers accounted for 9 percent of consolidated operating revenue in 2012 (9 percent in 2011 ). Revenue from electric sales to pipelines and other industrials accounted for 6 percent of consolidated operating revenue in 2012 (7 percent in 2011 ).

Operating Expenses increased $19.1 million, or 3 percent, from 2011.

Fuel and Purchased Power Expense increased $2.1 million , or 1 percent , from 2011 primarily due to a $3.2 million increase in the capacity component of our Square Butte PPA; the capacity component is not recovered through our fuel adjustment clause. Fuel and purchased power expense related to our retail and municipal customers is recovered through the fuel adjustment clause (see Operating Revenue ).

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
35


2012 Compared to 2011 (Continued)
Regulated Operations (Continued)

Operating and Maintenance Expense increased $8.5 million , or 3 percent , from 2011 primarily due to increased salary, benefit, and transmission expenses. Benefit expenses increased primarily due to higher pension expense resulting from lower discount rates. Transmission expenses increased primarily due to higher MISO RECB expense. These increases were partially offset by lower plant outage and maintenance expenses in 2012.

Depreciation Expense increased $8.5 million , or 10 percent , from 2011 reflecting additional property, plant and equipment in service.

Interest Expense increased $4.0 million , or 11 percent , from 2011 primarily due to higher average long-term debt balances, partially offset by higher AFUDC - Debt.

Income Tax Expense increased $7.2 million , or 17 percent , from 2011 primarily due to the non-recurring tax benefits recorded in 2011 for the reversal of a $6.2 million deferred tax liability related to a revenue receivable Minnesota Power agreed to forgo as part of a stipulation and settlement agreement in its 2010 rate case and the recognition of a $2.9 million income tax benefit related to the MPUC approval of our request to defer the retail portion of the tax charge taken in 2010 resulting from the PPACA. The 2012 income tax expense was impacted by increased renewable tax credits over 2011.

Investments and Other

Operating Revenue increased $10.5 million , or 14 percent , from 2011 primarily due to a $10.8 million increase in revenue at BNI Coal. BNI Coal, which operates under a cost plus fixed fee contract, recorded higher revenue as a result of higher expenses in 2012. (See Operating Expenses .)

ALLETE Properties
2012
2011
Revenue and Sales Activity
Acres (a)

Amount

Acres (a)

Amount

Dollars in Millions
 
 
 
 
Revenue from Land Sales


3


$0.4

Other Revenue (b)
 

$2.1

 

0.9

Total ALLETE Properties Revenue
 

$2.1

 


$1.3

(a)
Acreage amounts are shown on a gross basis, including wetlands.
(b)
For the year ended December 31, 2012, Other Revenue includes wetland mitigation bank credit sales of $1.1million. For the year ended December 31, 2011, Other Revenue includes a $0.4 million forfeited deposit due to the transfer of property back to ALLETE Properties by deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, in satisfaction of amounts previously owed under long-term financing receivables.

Operating Expenses increased $8.7 million, or 10 percent, from 2011 reflecting higher expenses at BNI Coal of $8.4 million primarily due to higher repairs, fuel costs and new equipment leases; these costs are recovered through the cost plus fixed fee contract. (See Operating Revenue .) The remaining increase was primarily due to higher business development expenses. These increases were partially offset by a $1.7 million pretax impairment charge taken at ALLETE Properties in 2011.

Interest Expense decreased $2.1 million, or 27 percent, from 2011 primarily due to an increase in the proportion of ALLETE interest expense allocated to Minnesota Power. We record interest expense for our Regulated Operations based on Minnesota Power’s rate base and authorized capital structure, and allocate the remaining balance to Investments and Other. Interest expense also decreased due to the reversal of interest accrued in previous years related to our uncertain tax positions.

Income Tax Benefits increased $4.8 million, or 63 percent, from 2011 due to lower state tax expense. State income tax expense was lower in 2012 primarily due to North Dakota income tax credits attributable to our North Dakota capital investment, and recognized as a result of ALLETE’s expected generation of future taxable income in excess of that generated by our Regulated Operations.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
36


2012 Compared to 2011 (Continued)

Income Taxes – Consolidated

For the year ended December 31, 2012 , the effective tax rate was 28.1 percent (27.6 percent for the year ended December 31, 2011 ; the effective tax rate for the year ended December 31, 2011, was lowered by 4.8 percentage points due to the non-recurring reversal of the deferred tax liability related to a revenue receivable that Minnesota Power agreed to forgo as part of a stipulation and settlement agreement in its 2010 rate case, and by 2.2 percentage points due to the non-recurring income tax benefit related to the MPUC approval of our request to defer the retail portion of the tax charge taken in 2010 resulting from the PPACA). The increase in the effective tax rate from the year ended December 31, 2011, was primarily due to the 2011 non-recurring items above, which were offset by increased renewable tax credits in 2012. The effective tax rate deviated from the statutory rate of approximately 41 percent primarily due to deductions for AFUDC - Equity, investment tax credits, renewable tax credits and depletion, and in 2011, for the non-recurring items discussed above. (See Note 14. Income Tax Expense.)


2011 Compared to 2010

(See Note 2. Business Segments for financial results by segment.)

Regulated Operations

Operating Revenue increased $16.4 million, or 2 percent, from 2010 primarily due to increased sales to our retail and municipal customers, increased cost recovery rider revenue, higher fuel clause recoveries, increased financial incentives under the Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program, and implementation of final retail rates. These increases were partially offset by lower sales to Other Power Suppliers.

Revenue and kilowatt-hour sales to retail and municipal customers increased $21.5 million and 5.6 percent, respectively, from 2010 primarily due to a 8.2 percent increase in kilowatt-hour sales to our industrial customers and the implementation of final retail rates. Increased revenue from those sales was offset by a $30.5 million and a 19.7 percent decrease in revenue and kilowatt-hour sales, respectively, to Other Power Suppliers. Sales to Other Power Suppliers are sold at market-based prices into the MISO market on a daily basis or through bilateral agreements of various durations.

 
Kilowatt-hours Sold
2011

2010

Quantity
Variance
%
Variance
Millions
 
 
 
 
Regulated Utility
 
 
 
 
Retail and Municipals
 
 
 
 
Residential
1,159

1,150

9

0.8

Commercial
1,433

1,433



Industrial
7,365

6,804

561

8.2

Municipals
1,013

1,006

7

0.7

Total Retail and Municipals
10,970

10,393

577

5.6

Other Power Suppliers
2,205

2,745

(540
)
(19.7
)
Total Regulated Utility Kilowatt-hours Sold
13,175

13,138

37

0.3


Revenue from electric sales to taconite customers accounted for 26 percent of consolidated operating revenue in 2011 (24 percent in 2010). Revenue from electric sales to paper, pulp and wood product customers accounted for 9 percent of consolidated operating revenue in 2011 (9 percent in 2010). Revenue from electric sales to pipelines and other industrials accounted for 7 percent of consolidated operating revenue in 2011 (6 percent in 2010).

Cost recovery rider revenue increased $12.2 million due to higher capital expenditures primarily related to our Bison 1 and CapX2020 projects.

Fuel adjustment clause recoveries increased $6.3 million, or 8 percent, from 2010 due to an increase in kilowatt-hour sales and higher fuel and purchased power costs attributable to our retail and municipal customers.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
37


2011 Compared to 2010 (Continued)
Regulated Operations (Continued)

Financial incentives under the Minnesota Conservation Improvement Program increased $5.9 million reflecting a shared savings model to recognize utility progress toward meeting the energy-saving goal of 1.5 percent established in the Next Generation Energy Act of 2007.

Wholesale rate revenue increased $5.6 million reflecting higher rates.

Operating Expenses were consistent with 2010 overall.

Fuel and Purchased Power Expense decreased $18.5 million, or 6 percent, from 2010 primarily due to a 23 percent reduction in MWhs purchased and lower purchased power prices. In 2010, additional purchased power was required to meet planned major outages at Boswell and Square Butte. Also included in 2010 was a $5.4 million charge for the write-off of a deferred fuel clause regulatory asset related to the 2008 rate case. Fuel and purchased power expense related to our retail and municipal customers is recovered through the fuel adjustment clause (see Operating Revenue ) and increased due to higher kilowatt-hour sales to these customers.

Operating and Maintenance Expense increased $9.2 million, or 3 percent, from 2010 primarily reflecting increased property tax and benefit expense. Property tax expense increased $5.5 million due to more taxable plant and higher rates while benefits increased $4.0 primarily due to increased pension costs as a result of lower discount rates.

Depreciation Expense increased $9.3 million, or 12 percent, from 2010 reflecting additional property, plant and equipment in service.

Interest Expense increased $3.5 million, or 11 percent, from 2010 primarily due to higher long-term debt balances.

Income Tax Expense decreased $8.4 million, or 16 percent, from 2010 primarily due to the reversal of a $6.2 million deferred tax liability related to a revenue receivable Minnesota Power agreed to forgo as part of a stipulation and settlement agreement in its 2010 rate case, increased renewable tax credits of $3.2 million and the recognition of a non-recurring $2.9 million income tax benefit related to the MPUC approval of our request to defer the retail portion of the tax charge taken in 2010 resulting from the PPACA. Also contributing to the decrease was a non-recurring income tax charge of $3.6 million resulting from the PPACA in the first quarter of 2010. (See Note 5. Regulatory Matters.)

Investments and Other

Operating Revenue increased $4.8 million, or 7 percent, from 2010 reflecting a $5.6 million increase in revenue at BNI Coal, partially offset by a $0.9 million decrease in revenue at ALLETE Properties. BNI Coal, which operates under a cost plus fixed fee contract, recorded higher sales revenue as a result of higher expenses in 2011. (See Operating Expense.)

ALLETE Properties
2011
2010
Revenue and Sales Activity
Acres (a)
Amount
Acres (a)
Amount
Dollars in Millions
 
 
 
 
Revenue from Land Sales
3


$0.4



Other Revenue (b)
 
0.9

 

$2.2

Total ALLETE Properties Revenue
 

$1.3

 

$2.2

(a)
Acreage amounts are shown on a gross basis, including wetlands.
(b)
For the year ended December 31, 2011, Other Revenue included a $0.4 million forfeited deposit due to the transfer of property back to ALLETE Properties by deed-in-lieu of foreclosure, in satisfaction of amounts previously owed under long-term financing receivables. For the year ended December 31, 2010, Other Revenue included a $0.7 million pretax gain due to the return of seller-financed property from an entity which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in June 2009. Also included in 2010 were $0.3 million of forfeited deposits and $0.3 million related to a lawsuit settlement.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
38


2011 Compared to 2010 (Continued)
Investments and Other (Continued)

Operating Expenses increased $7.0 million, or 9 percent, from 2010 reflecting higher expenses at BNI Coal of $5.1 million primarily due to higher fuel costs; these costs were recovered through the cost plus fixed fee contract. (See Operating Revenue .) The remaining increase in 2011 was primarily attributable to higher business development, interest and investment-related expenses. Also contributing to the increased expenses was a $1.7 million pretax impairment charge taken at ALLETE Properties. In the fourth quarter of 2011, an impairment analysis of estimated future undiscounted cash flows was conducted and indicated that the cash flows were not adequate to recover the carrying basis of certain properties not strategic to our three major development projects. These increases were partially offset by a reduction in operating expenses at ALLETE Properties.

Income Taxes – Consolidated

For the year ended December 31, 2011, the effective tax rate was 27.6 percent (37.2 percent for the year ended December 31, 2010). The effective tax rate for the year ended December 31, 2011, was lowered by 4.8 percentage points due to the non-recurring reversal of the deferred tax liability related to a revenue receivable that Minnesota Power agreed to forgo as part of a stipulation and settlement agreement in its 2010 rate case, and by 2.2 percentage points due to the income tax benefit related to the MPUC approval of our request to defer the retail portion of the tax charge taken in 2010 resulting from the PPACA. The decrease in the effective tax rate from the year ended December 31, 2010, was due to the 2011 non-recurring items above, and an increase in renewable tax credits. The effective tax rate deviated from the statutory rate of approximately 41 percent primarily due to deductions for depletion, investment tax credits, and renewable tax credits. (See Note 14. Income Tax Expense.)


Critical Accounting Policies

The preparation of financial statements and related disclosures in conformity with GAAP requires management to make various estimates and assumptions that affect amounts reported in the consolidated financial statements. These estimates and assumptions may be revised, which may have a material effect on the consolidated financial statements. Actual results may differ from these estimates and assumptions. These policies are discussed with the Audit Committee of our Board of Directors on a regular basis. The following represent the policies we believe are most critical to our business and the understanding of our results of operations.

Regulatory Accounting. Our regulated utility operations are accounted for in accordance with the accounting standards for the effects of certain types of regulation. These standards require us to reflect the effect of regulatory decisions in our financial statements. Regulatory assets represent incurred costs that have been deferred as they are probable for recovery in customer rates. Regulatory liabilities represent obligations to make refunds to customers and amounts collected in rates for which the related costs have not yet been incurred. The Company assesses quarterly whether regulatory assets and liabilities meet the criteria for probability of future recovery or deferral. This assessment considers factors such as, but not limited to, changes in the regulatory environment and recent rate orders to other regulated entities under the same jurisdiction. If future recovery or refund of costs becomes no longer probable, the assets and liabilities would be recognized in current period net income or other comprehensive income. (See Note 5. Regulatory Matters.)


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
39


Critical Accounting Policies (Continued)

Pension and Postretirement Health and Life Actuarial Assumptions. We account for our pension and postretirement benefit obligations in accordance with the accounting standards for defined benefit pension and other postretirement plans. These standards require the use of several important assumptions, including the expected long-term rate of return on plan assets and the discount rate, among others, in determining our obligations and the annual cost of our pension and postretirement benefits. In establishing the expected long-term rate of return on plan assets, we determine the long-term historical performance of each asset class, adjust these for current economic conditions, and utilizing the target allocation of our plan assets, forecast the expected long-term rate of return. Our pension asset allocation at December 31, 2012 , was approximately 54 percent equity securities, 28 percent debt, 13  percent private equity, and 5 percent real estate. Our postretirement health and life asset allocation at December 31, 2012 , was approximately 56 percent equity securities, 35 percent debt, and 9 percent private equity. Equity securities consist of a mix of market capitalization sizes with domestic and international securities. In 2012 we used expected long-term rates of return of 8.25 percent in our actuarial determination of our pension expense and 6.60 percent to 8.25 percent in our actuarial determination of our other postretirement expense. The actuarial determination uses an asset smoothing methodology for actual returns to reduce the volatility of varying investment performance over time. We review our expected long-term rate of return assumption annually and will adjust it to respond to changing market conditions. A one-quarter percent decrease in the expected long-term rate of return would increase the annual expense for pension and other postretirement benefits by approximately $1.4 million , pretax.

The discount rate is computed using a yield curve adjusted for ALLETE’s projected cash flows to match our plan characteristics. The yield curve is determined using high-quality, long-term corporate bond rates at the valuation date. In 2012 , we used discount rates of 4.54 percent and 4.56 percent in our actuarial determination of our pension and other postretirement expense, respectively. We review our discount rate annually and will adjust it to respond to changing market conditions. A one-quarter percent decrease in the discount rate would increase the annual expense for pension and other postretirement benefits by approximately $2.2 million , pretax. (See Note 15. Pension and Other Postretirement Benefit Plans.)

Impairment of Long-Lived Assets. We review our long-lived assets, which include the real estate assets of ALLETE Properties, for indicators of impairment in accordance with the accounting standards for property, plant and equipment on a quarterly basis.

In accordance with the accounting standards for property, plant and equipment, if indicators of impairment exist, we test our real estate assets for recoverability by comparing the carrying amount of the asset to the undiscounted future net cash flows expected to be generated by the asset. Cash flows are assessed at the lowest level of identifiable cash flows, which may be by each land parcel, combining various parcels into bulk sales, or other combinations thereof. Our consideration of possible impairment for our real estate assets requires us to make estimates of future cash flows on an undiscounted basis. The undiscounted future net cash flows are impacted by trends and factors known to us at the time they are calculated and our expectations related to management’s best estimate of future sales prices, the holding period and timing of sales, the method of disposition and the future expenditures necessary to develop and maintain the operations, including community development district assessments, property taxes and normal operation and maintenance costs. These estimates and expectations are specific to, and may vary among, each land parcel or bulk sale. If the excess of undiscounted cash flows over the carrying value of a property is small, there is a greater risk of future impairment in the event of such changes and any resulting impairment charges could be material.

Taxation.  We are required to make judgments regarding the potential tax effects of various financial transactions and our ongoing operations to estimate our obligations to taxing authorities. These tax obligations include income, real estate and sales/use taxes. Judgments related to income taxes require the recognition in our financial statements of the largest tax benefit of a tax position that is “more-likely-than-not” to be sustained on audit. Tax positions that do not meet the “more-likely-than-not” criteria are reflected as a tax liability in accordance with the accounting standards for uncertainty in income taxes. We record a valuation allowance against our deferred tax assets to the extent it is more-likely-than-not that some portion or all of the deferred tax assets will not be realized.

We are subject to income taxes in various jurisdictions. We make assumptions and judgments each reporting period to estimate our income tax assets, liabilities, benefits, and expenses. Judgments and assumptions are supported by historical data and reasonable projections. Our assumptions and judgments include projections of our future federal and state taxable income, and state apportionment, to determine our ability to utilize NOL and credit carryforwards prior to their expiration. Significant changes in assumptions regarding future federal and state taxable income could require valuation allowances which could result in a material impact on our results of operations.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
40


Outlook

ALLETE is an energy company committed to earning a financial return that rewards our shareholders, allows for reinvestment in our businesses and sustains growth. The Company has a key long-term objective of achieving minimum average earnings per share growth of 5 percent per year (using 2010 as a base year) and maintaining a competitive dividend payout. To accomplish this, Minnesota Power will continue to pursue customer growth opportunities and cost recovery rider approval for environmental, renewable and transmission investments, as well as work with legislators and regulators to earn a fair rate of return. In addition, ALLETE expects to pursue new energy-centric initiatives that provide long-term earnings growth potential, while at the same time reduce our exposure to industrial electricity sales. The new energy-centric pursuits will be in renewable energy, transmission and other energy-related infrastructure or infrastructure services.

We believe that, over the long-term, less carbon intensive and more sustainable energy sources will play an increasingly important role in our nation’s energy mix. Minnesota Power has developed renewable resources which will be used to meet regulated renewable supply requirements and is considering additional investments. In addition, in June 2011, we established ALLETE Clean Energy, a wholly-owned subsidiary of ALLETE. ALLETE Clean Energy operates independently of Minnesota Power to develop or acquire capital projects aimed at creating energy solutions via wind, solar, biomass, hydro, natural gas/liquids, shale resources, clean coal and other clean energy innovations. ALLETE Clean Energy intends to market to electric utilities, cooperatives, municipalities, independent power marketers and large end-users across North America through long-term contracts or other sale arrangements, and will be subject to applicable state and federal regulatory approvals. For wind development, we intend to capitalize on our existing presence in North Dakota through BNI Coal, our DC transmission line and our Bison Wind Energy Center. We have a long-term business presence and established landowner relationships in North Dakota.

We plan to make investments in transmission opportunities that strengthen or enhance the transmission grid or take advantage of our geographical location between sources of renewable energy and end users. This includes the Great Northern Transmission Line and the CapX2020 initiative, as well as investments to enhance our own transmission facilities, investments in other transmission assets (individually or in combination with others), and our investment in ATC. Transmission investments could be made by Minnesota Power or a subsidiary of ALLETE. (See Regulated Operations – Transmission.)

North American energy trends continue to evolve, and may be impacted by emerging technological, environmental, and demand changes. We believe this may create opportunity, and we are exploring investing in other energy-centric businesses related to energy infrastructure and infrastructure services. Our investment criteria focuses on investments with recurring or contractual revenues, differentiated offerings and reasonable barriers to entry. In addition, investments would typically support ALLETE’s investment grade credit metrics and dividend policy.

Regulated Operations. Minnesota Power’s long-term strategy is to be the leading electric energy provider in northeastern Minnesota by providing safe, reliable and cost-competitive electric energy, while complying with environmental permit conditions and renewable requirements. Keeping the cost of energy production competitive enables Minnesota Power to effectively compete in the wholesale power markets and minimizes retail rate increases to help maintain the viability of its customers. As part of maintaining cost competitiveness, Minnesota Power intends to reduce its exposure to possible future carbon and GHG legislation by reshaping its generation portfolio, over time, to reduce its reliance on coal. We will monitor and review proposed environmental regulations and may challenge those that add considerable cost with limited environmental benefit. Minnesota Power will continue to pursue customer growth opportunities and cost recovery rider approval for environmental, renewable and transmission investments, as well as work with legislators and regulators to earn a fair rate of return. We project that our Regulated Operations will not earn its allowed rate of return in 2013.

Regulatory Matters. Entities within our Regulated Operations segment are under the jurisdiction of the MPUC, the FERC or the PSCW. See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters for discussion of regulatory matters within our Minnesota, FERC, Wisconsin and North Dakota jurisdictions.

Industrial Customers.  Electric power is one of several key inputs in the taconite mining, iron concentrate, paper, pulp and wood products, and pipeline industries. In 2012 , 57 percent (56 percent in 2011 ) of our Regulated Utility kilowatt-hour sales were made to our industrial customers in these industries.

Minnesota Power provides electric service to five taconite customers capable of producing up to approximately 41 million tons of taconite pellets annually. Taconite pellets produced in Minnesota are primarily shipped to North American steel making facilities that are part of the integrated steel industry. Steel produced from these North American facilities is used primarily in the manufacture of automobiles, appliances, pipe and tube products for the gas and oil industry, and in the construction industry. Historically, less than five percent of Minnesota taconite production is exported outside of North America.

ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
41


Outlook (Continued)
Industrial Customers (Continued)

There has been a general historical correlation between U.S. steel production and Minnesota taconite production. The World Steel Association, an association of approximately 170 steel producers, national and regional steel industry associations, and steel research institutes representing around 85 percent of world steel production, projected U.S. steel consumption in 2013 will be similar to 2012. The American Iron and Steel Institute (AISI), an association of North American steel producers, reported that U.S. raw steel production operated at approximately 75 percent of capacity in 2012 (75 percent in 2011, 70 percent in 2010). Based on these projections, 2013 taconite production levels in Minnesota are expected to be similar to 2012. The following table reflects Minnesota Power’s taconite customers’ production levels for the past ten years.

Minnesota Power Taconite Customer Production
Year
 
Tons (Millions)
2012*
 
39
2011
 
39
2010
 
35
2009
 
17
2008
 
39
2007
 
38
2006
 
39
2005
 
40
2004
 
39
2003
 
34
Source: Minnesota Department of Revenue December 2012 Mining Tax Guide for years 2003 - 2011.
* Preliminary data from the Minnesota Department of Revenue.

Our taconite customers may experience annual variations in production levels due to such factors as economic conditions, short-term demand changes or maintenance outages. We estimate that a one million ton change in our taconite customers’ production would change our annual earnings per share by approximately $0.03, net of power marketing sales at 2012 year-end prices. Changes in wholesale electric prices or customer contractual demand nominations could impact this estimate. Long-term reductions in production or a permanent shut down of a taconite customer may lead us to file a rate case to recover lost revenues.

Similar to our taconite customers, Minnesota Power’s four major paper mills ran at, or very near, full capacity for the majority of 2012. Similar levels are expected in 2013.

Northshore Mining Company . In November 2012, Cliffs Natural Resources Inc. announced an idling of two small production lines for all of 2013 at its Northshore Mining Company (Northshore) facility in Silver Bay, Minnesota. Northshore has on-site generation supplying most of its power needs at the Silver Bay facility and therefore, the production idling at Northshore will not have an adverse effect on Minnesota Power’s sales to taconite customers.

Prospective Additional Load.   Minnesota Power is pursuing new wholesale and retail loads in and around its service territory. Currently, several companies in northeastern Minnesota continue to progress in the development of natural resource based projects that represent long-term growth potential and load diversity for Minnesota Power. These potential projects are in the ferrous and non-ferrous mining and steel industries and include PolyMet, Mesabi Nugget, USS Corporation’s expansion at its Keewatin taconite facility, Essar Steel Limited Minnesota (Essar), and Magnetation. We cannot predict the outcome of these projects, but if these projects are constructed, Minnesota Power could serve up to approximately 600 MW of new retail or wholesale load.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
42


Outlook (Continued)
Industrial Customers (Continued)

PolyMet . Minnesota Power has executed a long-term contract with PolyMet, a new industrial customer planning to start a copper-nickel and precious metal (non-ferrous) mining operation in northeastern Minnesota. PolyMet began work on a Supplemental Draft Environmental Impact Statement (SDEIS) in 2010. The SDEIS will address environmental issues, including those dealing with a land exchange between PolyMet and the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), which is critical to the mine site development. The EPA and the USFS joined as lead agencies in the SDEIS process. Release of the SDEIS is expected in the first half of 2013, to be followed by a public review and comment period. Assuming successful completion of the SDEIS process and subsequent issuance of permits, Minnesota Power could begin to supply between 45 MW and 70 MW of load as early as 2015 through a 10-year power supply contract that would begin upon start-up of the mining operations.

Mesabi Nugget. The construction of the initial Mesabi Nugget facility is complete and production began in January 2010. Mesabi Nugget continues to pursue permits for taconite mining activities on lands formerly mined by Erie Mining Company and LTV Steel Mining Company near Hoyt Lakes, Minnesota. Upon receipt of permits to mine, Mesabi Nugget could mine and self-supply its own iron ore concentrate about a year later, which would result in increased electrical loads above our current 20 MW long-term power supply contract with Mesabi Nugget which lasts at least through 2017. In the meantime, Mesabi Nugget will receive iron ore concentrate from a new Mining Resources, LLC facility located near Chisholm, Minnesota.

Keewatin Taconite. In February 2008, USS Corporation announced its intent to restart a pellet line at its Keewatin Taconite (Keetac) processing facility. If restarted, this pellet line, which has been idle since 1980, could bring 3.6 million tons of additional pellet making capability to northeastern Minnesota and could result in over 60 MW of additional load for Minnesota Power. Project permits have been received and should the project be approved by USS Corporation’s Board of Directors, construction activities could commence immediately thereafter with production expected to begin approximately two to three years later.

City of Nashwauk. On May 1, 2012, the Company entered into a new formula-based wholesale electric sales agreement with the City of Nashwauk for all of the City’s electric service requirements, effective April 1, 2013 through June 30, 2024. A new Essar taconite facility is currently under construction in the city of Nashwauk, Minnesota. This facility will result in approximately 110 MW of additional load for Minnesota Power. Essar has indicated plans for start-up in mid-2013, with pellet production beginning during the second half of the year, resulting in a minimal impact on our results of operations until late 2013. ALLETE believes Essar will move towards full production capacity levels during 2014. Under the terms of a facilities construction agreement, Minnesota Power is constructing a 230 kV transmission system upgrade to serve the Essar load. This upgrade is expected to cost approximately $35 million and is scheduled to be in service in April 2013, at which time the City of Nashwauk will begin to provide electric service for Essar’s new taconite facility. Expansions for additional pellet production, production of direct reduced iron and production of steel slabs are also being considered for future years. In addition, on February 11, 2013, Essar announced a ten year iron ore pellet off-take agreement with ArcelorMittal. Under terms of the agreement Essar will supply 3.5 million tons of pellets annually to ArcelorMittal, which is expected to begin in late 2013.

Magnetation. In December 2011, the MPUC approved Minnesota Power’s electric service agreement with Magnetation. Magnetation, a company in northeastern Minnesota, produces iron ore concentrate from low-grade natural ore tailing basins, already mined stockpiles and newly mined iron formations. Magnetation’s facility near Taconite, Minnesota is fully operational with equipment additions currently underway at the facility.

In October 2011, Magnetation and integrated steelmaker, AK Steel Corporation (AK Steel), announced a joint venture, Magnetation LLC, under which construction activities for two new facilities, near Calumet and Coleraine, Minnesota, are expected to commence in 2013. The Calumet facility could come on line in late 2014 and the Coleraine facility shortly thereafter to supply iron ore concentrate to Magnetation’s new pellet plant that is under construction in Reynolds, Indiana. Construction of these new iron ore concentrate facilities could result in approximately 20 MW of additional load for Minnesota Power.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
43


Outlook (Continued)

EnergyForward. On January 30, 2013, Minnesota Power announced “EnergyForward”, a strategic plan for assuring reliability, protecting affordability and further improving environmental performance. The plan includes completed and planned investments in wind and hydroelectric power, the addition of natural gas as a generation fuel source, and the installation of emissions control technology. Significant elements of the “EnergyForward” plan include:

Major wind investments in North Dakota. Including the 210 MW of wind generation commissioned in December 2012, our total Bison Wind Energy Center now has 292 MW of nameplate capacity (see Renewable Energy).
Planned installation of approximately $350 to $400 million in emissions control technology at our Boswell Unit 4 to further reduce emissions of SO 2 , particulates and mercury. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters – Boswell Mercury Emissions Reduction Plan.)
Planning for the proposed Great Northern Transmission Line to deliver hydroelectric power from northern Manitoba by 2020. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Transmission and Distribution.)
The conversion of our Laskin Energy Center from coal to cleaner-burning natural gas in 2015.
Retiring Taconite Harbor Unit 3, one of three coal units at our Taconite Harbor Energy Center, in 2015.

Our “EnergyForward” initiatives are subject to regulatory approval, and will be included in Minnesota Power’s Integrated Resource Plan to be filed with the MPUC on March 1, 2013 (see Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Regulatory Matters).

Boswell Mercury Emissions Reduction Plan. Minnesota Power is required to implement a mercury emissions reduction project for Boswell Unit 4 under the Minnesota Mercury Emissions Reduction and the Federal MATS rule. On August 31, 2012, Minnesota Power filed its mercury emissions reduction plan for Boswell Unit 4 with the MPUC and the MPCA. The plan proposes that Minnesota Power install pollution controls by early 2016 to address both the Minnesota mercury emissions reduction requirements and the Federal MATS rule. Costs to implement the Boswell Unit 4 mercury emissions reduction plan are included in the estimated capital expenditures and are estimated to be between $350 million and $400 million. The MPCA has 180 days to comment on the mercury emissions reduction plan, which then is reviewed by the MPUC for a decision. We expect a decision by the MPUC on the plan in the third quarter of 2013. After approval by the MPUC we anticipate filing a petition to include investments and expenditures in customer billing rates.

Renewable Energy . In February 2007, Minnesota enacted a law requiring 25 percent of Minnesota Power’s total retail and wholesale energy sales in Minnesota be from renewable energy sources by 2025. The law also requires Minnesota Power to meet interim milestones of 12 percent by 2012, 17 percent by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. The law allows the MPUC to modify or delay meeting a milestone if implementation will cause significant ratepayer cost or technical reliability issues. If a utility is not in compliance with a milestone, the MPUC may order the utility to construct facilities, purchase renewable energy or purchase renewable energy credits. Minnesota Power met the 2012 milestone and has developed a plan to meet the future renewable milestones which is included in its 2010 Integrated Resource Plan. The MPUC approved the Integrated Resource Plan in its final order issued in May 2011. Minnesota Power will submit its next Integrated Resource Plan on March 1, 2013, and include an update on its plans and progress in meeting the Minnesota renewable energy milestones through 2025.

Minnesota Power has taken several steps in executing its renewable energy strategy through key renewable projects that will ensure we meet the identified state mandate at the lowest cost for customers. We have executed two long-term PPAs with an affiliate of NextEra Energy, Inc., for wind energy in North Dakota (Oliver Wind I and II). Other steps include Taconite Ridge, our 25 MW wind facility located in northeastern Minnesota, and our 292 MW Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota. Approximately 20 percent of the Company’s total retail and municipal energy sales will be supplied by renewable energy sources in 2013.

North Dakota Wind Development. Minnesota Power uses our 465-mile, 250 kV DC transmission line that runs from Center, North Dakota, to Duluth, Minnesota to transport increasing amounts of wind energy from North Dakota while gradually phasing out coal-based electricity delivered to our system over this transmission line from Square Butte’s lignite coal-fired generating unit.

Our Bison Wind Energy Center in North Dakota consists of 292 MW of nameplate capacity. The 82 MW Bison 1 wind facility was completed in two phases; the first phase in 2010 and the second phase in January 2012. The 105 MW Bison 2 and 105 MW Bison 3 wind facilities were completed in December 2012. Total project costs for our Bison Wind Energy Center were $473.3 million through December 31, 2012 . In September 2011, and November 2011, the MPUC approved Minnesota Power’s petition seeking cost recovery for investments and expenditures related to Bison 2 and Bison 3, respectively.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
44


Outlook (Continued)
Renewable Energy (Continued)

Current customer billing rates were approved by the MPUC in a November 2011 order and are based on investments and expenditures associated with our Bison Wind Energy Center through that period. We anticipate filing a cost recovery petition with the MPUC in the first half of 2013 to update customer billing rates for subsequent investments and expenditures since 2011.

Our current capital expenditures plan includes additional wind energy investments in North Dakota in 2016 and 2017 to meet Minnesota’s 25 percent renewable energy mandate by 2025 (see Liquidity and Capital Resources – Capital Requirements). On January 2, 2013, The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended the availability of the production tax credit for renewable energy facilities that commence construction by December 31, 2013. As a result, we are evaluating the acceleration of these investments so that construction would commence in 2013.

Manitoba Hydro. Minnesota Power has a long-term PPA with Manitoba Hydro for the purchase of 50 MW of capacity and energy associated with that capacity, which expires in April 2015 . In addition, Minnesota Power signed a separate PPA with Manitoba Hydro to purchase surplus energy through April 2022 . This energy-only transaction primarily consists of surplus hydro energy on Manitoba Hydro’s system that is delivered to Minnesota Power on a non-firm basis. The pricing is based on forward market prices. Under this agreement with Manitoba Hydro, Minnesota Power will be purchasing at least one million MWh of energy over the contract term.

In May 2011, Minnesota Power and Manitoba Hydro signed an additional long-term PPA. The PPA calls for Manitoba Hydro to sell 250 MW of capacity and energy to Minnesota Power for 15 years beginning in 2020. The capacity price is adjusted annually until 2020 by a change in a governmental inflationary index. The energy price is based on a formula that includes an annual fixed price component adjusted for a change in a governmental inflationary index and a natural gas index, as well as market prices. The agreement is subject to construction of additional transmission capacity between Manitoba and Minnesota’s Iron Range. In addition, we are exploring other regional grid enhancements that would allow for the movement of more renewable energy in the Upper Midwest while at the same time strengthening electric reliability in the region.

Integrated Resource Plan . In May 2011, the MPUC issued its final order approving our 2010 Integrated Resource Plan. As a condition of the final order, a required baseload diversification study evaluating the impact of additional environmental regulations over the next two decades was filed on February 6, 2012. Minnesota Power’s Integrated Resource Plan to be filed on March 1, 2013, will detail our “EnergyForward” strategic plan (see EnergyForward ), and will include an analysis of a variety of existing and future energy resource alternatives and a projection of customer cost impact by class.

Transmission . We plan to make investments in transmission opportunities that strengthen or enhance the transmission grid or take advantage of our geographical location between sources of renewable energy and end users. This includes the Great Northern Transmission Line and the CapX2020 initiative, as well as investments to enhance our own transmission facilities, investments in other transmission assets (individually or in combination with others), and our investment in ATC. See also Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations.

Hydro Operations. On June 19 and 20, 2012, record rainfall and flooding occurred near Duluth, Minnesota and surrounding areas. The flooding impacted Minnesota Power’s hydro system, particularly the Thomson Energy Center, which is currently off-line due to damage to the forebay canal and flooding at the facility.

The Company has property insurance coverage of $100 million per occurrence and a deductible of $500,000 per event, providing coverage for water damage, equipment damage, and other structural damage at covered facilities. Damage to covered facilities, which includes significant electrical, mechanical and facility infrastructure damage at the Thomson facility, is estimated to be approximately $10 million, net of insurance.

The policy does not cover damage to land and earthen structures, which includes the majority of the damage to the forebay canal at the Thomson facility. Minnesota Power is continuing to assess options for rebuilding the forebay canal and is in close contact with the appropriate regulatory bodies which oversee the hydro system operations, including dams and reservoirs. Until that assessment is complete, we are not able to fully estimate the capital cost and schedule for rebuilding the forebay canal and resuming generation; however, based on a preliminary evaluation, the capital rebuild cost is estimated to be approximately $15 million to $25 million. Any expenditures to rebuild the forebay canal would be capitalized. Minnesota Power is working towards returning to partial generation from the Thomson Energy Center by the end of 2013 and to full generation by the end of 2014.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
45


Outlook (Continued)
Hydro Operations (Continued)

The Thomson facility represents approximately 5 percent of total company electric generation capability. Additional purchased power expense required due to the Thomson facility outage will be recovered through our fuel adjustment clause. We do not believe that this event will have a material impact on our financial position or results of operations.


Investments and Other

BNI Coal.   In 2012 , BNI Coal sold 4.4 million tons of coal (4.3 million tons in 2011 ) and anticipates 2013 sales will be similar to 2012 . BNI continues to operate under a cost plus fixed fee agreement extending through 2026.

ALLETE Properties.   ALLETE Properties represents our Florida real estate investment. Our current strategy for the assets is to complete and maintain key entitlements and infrastructure improvements without requiring significant additional investment, sell the portfolio when opportunities arise and reinvest the proceeds in our growth initiatives. If weak market conditions continue for an extended period of time, the impact on our future operations would be the continuation of little or no sales while still incurring operating expenses and carrying costs such as community development district assessments and property taxes, or impairments. ALLETE does not intend to acquire additional Florida real estate.

Our two major development projects are Town Center and Palm Coast Park. Another major project, Ormond Crossings, is in the permitting stage. The City of Ormond Beach, Florida, approved a development agreement for Ormond Crossings which will facilitate development of the project as currently planned. Separately, the Lake Swamp wetland mitigation bank was permitted on land that was previously part of Ormond Crossings.
Summary of Development Projects (100% Owned)
 
 
 
Residential
 
Non-residential
Land Available-for-Sale
 
Acres (a)
 
Units (b)
 
Sq. Ft. (b,c)
Current Development Projects
 
 
 
 
 
 
Town Center
 
965

 
2,485

 
2,246,200

Palm Coast Park
 
3,888

 
3,554

 
3,096,800

Total Current Development Projects
 
4,853

 
6,039

 
5,343,000

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Planned Development Project
 
 
 
 
 
 
Ormond Crossings
 
2,914

 
2,950

 
3,215,000

Other
 
 
 
 
 
 
Lake Swamp Wetland Mitigation Project
 
3,044

 
(d)

 
(d)

Total of Development Projects
 
10,811

 
8,989

 
8,558,000

(a)
Acreage amounts are approximate and shown on a gross basis, including wetlands.
(b)
Units and square footage are estimated. Density at build out may differ from these estimates.
(c)
Depending on the project, non-residential includes retail commercial, non-retail commercial, office, industrial, warehouse, storage and institutional.
(d)
The Lake Swamp wetland mitigation bank is a permitted, regionally significant wetlands mitigation bank. Wetland mitigation credits will be used at Ormond Crossings and are available-for-sale to developers of other projects that are located in the bank’s service area.

In addition to the three development projects and the mitigation bank, ALLETE Properties has 1,960 acres of other land available-for-sale.

ALLETE Clean Energy. In August 2011, the Company filed with the MPUC for approval of certain affiliated interest agreements between ALLETE and ALLETE Clean Energy. These agreements relate to various relationships with ALLETE, including the accounting for certain shared services, as well as the transfer of transmission and wind development rights in North Dakota to ALLETE Clean Energy. These transmission and wind development rights are separate and distinct from those needed by Minnesota Power to meet Minnesota’s renewable energy standard requirements. On July 23, 2012, the MPUC issued an order approving certain administrative items related to accounting for shared services and the transfer of meteorological towers, while deferring decisions related to transmission and wind development rights pending the MPUC’s further review of Minnesota Power’s future retail electric service needs.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
46


Outlook (Continued)

Income Taxes. ALLETE’s aggregate federal and multi-state statutory tax rate is approximately 41 percent for 2012. On an ongoing basis, ALLETE has certain tax credits and other tax adjustments that reduce the statutory rate to the effective tax rate. These tax credits and adjustments historically have included items such as investment tax credits, renewable tax credits, AFUDC-Equity, domestic manufacturer’s deduction, depletion, as well as other items. The annual effective rate can also be impacted by such items as changes in income from operations before non-controlling interest and income taxes, state and federal tax law changes that become effective during the year, business combinations and configuration changes, tax planning initiatives and resolution of prior years’ tax matters. Due primarily to increased renewable tax credits as a result of additional wind generation, we expect our effective tax rate to be approximately 20 percent for 2013. We also expect that our effective tax rate will be lower than the statutory rate over the next ten years due to production tax credits attributable to our wind generation.

Liquidity and Capital Resources

Liquidity Position. ALLETE is well-positioned to meet the Company’s liquidity needs. As of December 31, 2012 , we had cash and cash equivalents of $80.8 million , $406.4 million in available consolidated lines of credit and a debt-to-capital ratio of 46  percent.

Capital Structure. ALLETE’s capital structure for each of the last three years is as follows:

Year Ended December 31
2012

%
2011

%
2010

%
Millions
 
 
 
 
 
 
Common Equity

$1,201.0

54

$1,079.3

56

$976.0

55
Non-Controlling Interest


9.0

1
Long-Term Debt (Including Current Maturities)
1,018.1

46
863.3

44
785.0

44
Short-Term Debt

1.1

1.0

 

$2,219.1

100

$1,943.7

100

$1,771.0

100

Cash Flows. Selected information from ALLETE’s Consolidated Statement of Cash Flows is as follows:

Year Ended December 31
2012

2011

2010

Millions
 
 
 
Cash and Cash Equivalents at Beginning of Period

$101.1


$44.9


$25.7

Cash Flows from (for)
 
 
 
Operating Activities
239.6

241.7

228.7

Investing Activities
(420.1
)
(240.9
)
(250.9
)
Financing Activities
160.2

55.4

41.4

Change in Cash and Cash Equivalents
(20.3
)
56.2

19.2

Cash and Cash Equivalents at End of Period

$80.8


$101.1


$44.9


Operating Activities. Cash from operating activities was $239.6 million for 2012 ( $241.7 million for 2011 ; $228.7 million for 2010 ). Cash from operating activities was similar to 2011 as lower cash contributions to pension and other postretirement benefit plans ($8.8 million in 2012 and $24.7 million in 2011) were offset by higher cost recovery rider receivables in 2012 and income tax refunds received in 2011.

Cash from operating activities was higher in 2011 than 2010 primarily due to higher 2011 net income primarily from our Regulated Operations segment, decreased cash contributions to our pension and other postretirement employee benefit plans ($24.7 million in 2011 and $39.3 million in 2010), and increased customer deposits, partially offset by a decrease in accounts payable and higher inventory balances.

Investing Activities. Cash used for investing activities was $420.1 million for 2012 ( $240.9 million for 2011 ; $250.9 million for 2010 ). The increase in cash used for investing activities was primarily due to higher capital expenditures in 2012 primarily related to our Bison Wind Energy Center.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
47


Liquidity and Capital Resources (Continued)
Investing Activities (Continued)

Cash used for investing activities in 2011 was lower than 2010 primarily due to lower capital expenditures in 2011 and the redemption of ARS for $6.7 million in January 2011.

Financing Activities. Cash from financing activities was $160.2 million for 2012 ( $55.4 million for 2011 ; $41.4 million for 2010 ). The increase in cash from financing activities in 2012 was primarily due to increased proceeds from long-term debt and common stock issuances.

Cash from financing activities was higher in 2011 compared to 2010 primarily due to increased proceeds from the issuances of common stock, partially offset by lower net proceeds of long-term debt in 2011.

Working Capital . Additional working capital, if and when needed, generally is provided by consolidated bank lines of credit or the sale of securities or commercial paper. As of December 31, 2012 , we had available consolidated bank lines of credit aggregating $406.4 million , of which $150.0 million expires in January 2014, and $250.0 million expires in June 2015. In addition, we have 0.9 million original issue shares of our common stock available for issuance through Invest Direct, our direct stock purchase and dividend reinvestment plan, and 4.5 million original issue shares of common stock available for issuance through a Distribution Agreement with KCCI, Inc. The amount and timing of future sales of our securities will depend upon market conditions and our specific needs.

Securities . We entered into a distribution agreement with KCCI, Inc., in February 2008, as amended most recently on August 3, 2012, with respect to the issuance and sale of up to an aggregate of 9.6 million shares of our common stock, without par value, of which 4.5 million remain available for issuance. For the quarter ended December 31, 2012 , 0.4 million shares of common stock were issued under this agreement, resulting in net proceeds of $17.9 million (for the quarter ended December 31, 2011, no shares were issued). For the year ended December 31, 2012 , 1.3 million shares of common stock were issued under this agreement, resulting in net proceeds of $53.1 million ( 0.4 million shares for net proceeds of $16.0 million for the year ended December 31, 2011). The shares issued in 2012 were, and the remaining shares may be, offered for sale, from time to time, in accordance with the terms of the amended distribution agreement pursuant to Registration Statement Nos. 333-170289.

For the year ended December 31, 2012 , we issued a total of 0.5 million shares of common stock through Invest Direct, the Employee Stock Purchase Plan, and the Retirement Savings and Stock Ownership Plan, resulting in net proceeds of $23.9 million . These shares of common stock were registered under Registration Statement Nos. 333-166515, 333-105225, 333-183051 and 333-162890, respectively.

On July 2, 2012, we issued $160.0 million of the Company’s First Mortgage Bonds (Bonds) in the private placement market in two series. (See Note 10. Short-Term and Long-Term Debt.) On July 16, 2012, we used a portion of the proceeds from the sale of the Bonds to redeem $6.0 million of 6.50 percent Industrial Development Revenue Bonds and to repay outstanding borrowings of $14.0 million on our $150.0 million line of credit. The remaining proceeds were used to fund utility capital expenditures and for general corporate purposes.

Financial Covenants . See Note 10. Short-Term and Long-Term Debt for information regarding our financial covenants.

Off-Balance Sheet Arrangements . Off-balance sheet arrangements are discussed in Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.

Contractual Obligations and Commercial Commitments . ALLETE has contractual obligations and other commitments that will need to be funded in the future, in addition to its capital expenditure programs. Following is a summarized table of contractual obligations and other commercial commitments at December 31, 2012 .


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
48


 
Payments Due by Period
Contractual Obligations
 
Less than
1 to 3
4 to 5
After
As of December 31, 2012
Total
1 Year
Years
Years
5 Years
Millions
 
 
 
 
 
Long-Term Debt

$1,613.0


$129.8


$258.2


$127.6


$1,097.4

Pension
202.8

31.2

99.8

71.8


Other Postretirement Benefit Plans
53.9

7.6

26.6

19.7


Operating Lease Obligations
87.4

11.5

32.4

15.7

27.8

Uncertain Tax Positions (a)





Unconditional Purchase Obligations  (b)
576.7

125.3

179.3

82.8

189.3

 

$2,533.8


$305.4


$596.3


$317.6


$1,314.5

(a)
Excludes $2.7 million of non-current unrecognized tax benefits due to uncertainty regarding the timing of future cash payments related to uncertain tax positions.
(b)
Excludes the agreement with Manitoba Hydro expiring in 2022, as this contract is for surplus energy only. Also excludes the agreement with Manitoba Hydro expiring in 2035, as our obligation under this contract is subject to the construction of a hydro generation facility by Manitoba Hydro and additional transmission capacity. Also, excludes Oliver I and II, as we only pay for energy as it is delivered to us. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Power Supply.)

Long-Term Debt. Our long-term debt obligations, including long-term debt due within one year, represent the principal amount of bonds, notes and loans which are recorded on our Consolidated Balance Sheet, plus interest. The table above assumes that the interest rates in effect at December 31, 2012 , remain constant through the remaining term. (See Note 10. Short-Term and Long-Term Debt.)

Pension and Other Postretirement Benefit Plans. Our pension and other postretirement benefit plan obligations represent our current estimate of employer contributions. Pension contributions will be dependent on several factors including realized asset performance, future discount rate and other actuarial assumptions, IRS and other regulatory requirements, and contributions required to avoid benefit restrictions for the pension plans. Funding for the other postretirement benefit plans is impacted by realized asset performance, future discount rate and other actuarial assumptions, and utility regulatory requirements. These amounts are estimates and will change based on actual market performance, changes in interest rates and any changes in governmental regulations. (See Note 15. Pension and Other Postretirement Benefit Plans.)

Unconditional Purchase Obligations. Unconditional purchase obligations represent our Square Butte, Manitoba Hydro and Minnkota Power, minimum purchase commitments under coal and rail contracts, and purchase obligations for certain capital expenditure projects. (See Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.)

Under Minnesota Power’s PPA with Square Butte that extends through 2026, we are obligated to pay our pro rata share of Square Butte’s costs based on our entitlement to the output of Square Butte’s 455 MW coal-fired generating unit near Center, North Dakota. Minnesota Power’s payment obligation will be suspended if Square Butte fails to deliver any power, whether produced or purchased, for a period of one year. Square Butte’s fixed costs consist primarily of debt service. The table above reflects our share of future debt service based on our output entitlement of 50 percent. (See Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.)

We have a PPA with Manitoba Hydro that expires in April 2015. Under this agreement, Minnesota Power is purchasing 50 MW of capacity and the energy associated with that capacity. Both the capacity price and the energy price are adjusted annually by the change in a governmental inflationary index.

On December 12, 2012, Minnesota Power entered into a long-term PPA with Minnkota Power. Under this agreement Minnesota Power will purchase 50 MW of capacity and the energy associated with that capacity over the term June 1, 2016 through May 31, 2020. The agreement includes a fixed capacity charge and energy pricing that escalates at a fixed rate annually over the term.


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
49


Liquidity and Capital Resources (Continued)

Credit Ratings . Access to reasonably priced capital markets is dependent in part on credit and ratings. Our securities have been rated by Standard & Poor’s and by Moody’s. Rating agencies use both quantitative and qualitative measures in determining a company’s credit rating. These measures include business risk, liquidity risk, competitive position, capital mix, financial condition, predictability of cash flows, management strength and future direction. Some of the quantitative measures can be analyzed through a few key financial ratios, while the qualitative ones are more subjective. The disclosure of these credit ratings is not a recommendation to buy, sell or hold our securities. Ratings are subject to revision or withdrawal at any time by the assigning rating organization. Each rating should be evaluated independently of any other rating.

Credit Ratings
Standard & Poor’s
Moody’s
Issuer Credit Rating
BBB+
Baa1
Commercial Paper
A-2
P-2
Senior Secured
 
 
First Mortgage Bonds (a)
A–
A2
(a)
Includes collateralized pollution control bonds.

Common Stock Dividends . ALLETE is committed to providing a competitive dividend to its shareholders while at the same time funding its growth. The Company’s long-term objective is to maintain a dividend payout ratio similar to our peers and provide for future dividend increases. In 2012 , we paid out 71 percent (67 percent in 2011 ; 80 percent in 2010 ) of our per share earnings in dividends. On January 23, 2013, our Board of Directors declared a dividend of $0.475 per share, which is payable on March 1, 2013, to shareholders of record at the close of business on February 15, 2013.

Capital Requirements

ALLETE’s projected capital expenditures for the years 2013 through 2017 are presented in the table below. Actual capital expenditures may vary from the estimates due to changes in forecasted plant maintenance, regulatory decisions or approvals, future environmental requirements, base load growth, capital market conditions or executions of new business strategies.

Capital Expenditures
2013

2014

2015

2016

2017

Total

Millions
 
 
 
 
 
 
Regulated Utility Operations
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Base and Other

$171


$168


$147


$155


$138


$779

 
Cost Recovery  (a)
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Environmental (b)
93

133

87

3


316

 
Renewable (c)
2

8


68

158

236

 
Transmission (d)
30

28

11

3

40

112

 
Total Cost Recovery
125

169

98

74

198

664

Regulated Utility Capital Expenditures
296

337

245

229

336

1,443

Other
 
14

25

11

9

3

62

Total Capital Expenditures

$310


$362


$256


$238


$339


$1,505

(a)
Estimated current capital expenditures recoverable outside of a rate case.
(b)
Environmental capital expenditures primarily relate to compliance with the MATS rule for Boswell Unit 4. (See Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies.) Boswell Unit 4 capital expenditures included above reflect Minnesota Power’s ownership percentage of 80 percent. WPPI Energy owns 20 percent of Boswell Unit 4. (See Note 4. Jointly-Owned Facilities.)
(c)
Includes a total of $226 million in 2016 and 2017 related to additional wind generation of 100 MW. On January 2, 2013, the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012 extended the availability of the production tax credit for renewable energy facilities that commence construction by December 31, 2013. As a result, we are evaluating the acceleration of these investments so that construction would commence in 2013.
(d)
Transmission capital expenditures related to CapX2020 are estimated at approximately $50 million over the 2013 to 2015 period. Capital expenditures of $38 million are included related to commencement of construction of the Great Northern Transmission Line. (See Item 1. Business – Regulated Operations – Transmission and Distribution.)


ALLETE 2012 Form 10-K
50


Liquidity and Capital Resources (Continued)
Capital Requirements (Continued)

We intend to finance capital expenditures from a combination of internally generated funds and incremental debt and equity proceeds. Based on our anticipated capital expenditures reflected above, we project our rate base to grow by approximately 35 percent through 2017. Other proposed environmental regulations could result in future capital expenditures that are not included in the table above. Currently, future CapX2020 projects are under discussion and Minnesota Power may elect to participate on a project by project basis.

Environmental and Other Matters

Our businesses are subject to regulation of environmental matters by various federal, state and local authorities. Due to future restrictive environmental requirements through legislation and/or rulemaking, we anticipate that potential expenditures for environmental matters will be material and will require significant capital investments. We are unable to predict the outcome of the issues discussed in Note 11. Commitments, Guarantees and Contingencies. (See Item 1. Business – Environmental Matters.)

Market Risk

Securities Investments

Available-for-Sale Securities. At December 31, 2012 , our available-for-sale securities portfolio consisted of securities established to fund certain employee benefits. (See Note 7. Investments.)

Interest Rate Risk . We are exposed to risks resulting from changes in interest rates as a result of our issuance of variable rate debt. We manage our interest rate risk by varying the issuance and maturity dates of our fixed rate debt, limiting the amount of variable rate debt, and continually monitoring the effects of market changes in interest rates. We may also enter into derivative financial instruments, such as interest rate swaps, to mitigate interest rate exposure. The table below presents the long-term debt obligations and the corresponding weighted average interest rate at December 31, 2012 .

 
Expected Maturity Date
Interest Rate Sensitive