President and Chief Executive Officer at PPL
Thank you, Andy, and good morning, everyone. We appreciate you joining us for our 2021 year-end earnings call. Moving to Slide 3 and the agenda for today's call, I'll begin this morning with an overview of 2021 and what was clearly a significant transition year for PPL. I'll highlight key achievements we made throughout the year, including our progress in strategically repositioning PPL for future growth and success. Joe will provide a financial update including the previously discussed reset of our first quarter dividend we announced this morning and a detailed overview of our 2021 financial results. And as always, we'll leave ample time for your questions.
Turning to Slide 4, I'm incredibly proud of how our team performed and what was truly a remarkable year for PPL. As we began a new century in our company's history, we took bold steps to strategically reposition PPL as a U.S. focused energy company committed to sustainable growth and well positioned to lead the clean energy transition while maintaining affordability and reliability for our customers.
We completed the sale of our U.K. utility business in June, achieving exceptional value at almost $11 billion while eliminating risks associated with foreign operation. We then took steps to strengthen PPL's balance sheet by reducing $3.5 billion of our holding company debt which provides us with significant financial flexibility going forward. We advanced our planned acquisition of Narragansett Electric, which will expand and diversify our U.S. presence, add another high-quality regulated utility to our portfolio and create additional opportunities to leverage our proven operating model to drive value for customers and shareowners.
We anticipate receiving a final order from the Rhode Island division of public utilities and carriers with respect to the acquisition by March of 2022. While the strategic repositioning was a key priority in 2021 to set PPL up for long-term success, we also remain focused on achieving our near-term objectives.
In 2021, we continued our track record of earning equity returns that were in line with those allowed by our regulators. We also achieved constructive regulatory outcomes in 2021, with the settlements on the Pennsylvania FERC ROE challenge and the rate case in Kentucky, which will provide added stability and predictability to our plan over the next several years.
We also returned over $2 billion to shareowners through dividends as well as share repurchases, which included the completion of our targeted $1 billion in share buybacks through December 31. And true to our mission, we delivered energy safely, reliably and affordably for our 2.5 million customers in the United States. And as the pandemic refused to yield, we stayed resilient, acted responsibly to protect our employees and remain focused on continuous improvement.
From Kentucky to Pennsylvania, we delivered exceptional service throughout 2021. We maintain transmission and distribution reliability as well as generation availability that was among the best in the industry. Despite PPL Electric Utilities experiencing significant storms during 2021, it maintained top quartile performance for SAIFI, which measures the average number of outages our customers' experience. Meanwhile, our Kentucky operations posted their second best year on record for safety.
When severe weather struck either in Pennsylvania or Kentucky, we responded quickly and effectively. For example, after December tornadoes, tour through portions of our service territory in Kentucky, damaging are destroying more than 500 transmission and distribution poles. We restored power to most customers within 48 hours. Similarly, when the remnants of Hurricane Ida swept through our Pennsylvania service territory, knocking out power to tens of thousands of customers, we mobilized quickly and effectively to get the lights back on as soon as possible. Our restoration performance in the wake of Hurricane Ida was recognized with an EEI Emergency Response Award.
This performance is the result of the investments we've made in our grid and our dedicated employees who pride themselves on delivering the superior level of service each day. And that service was once again reflected in our customer satisfaction scores. We were honored to receive four new J.D. Power awards in 2021 for electric utility residential and business customer satisfaction with PPL Electric Utilities and Kentucky Utilities both ranking highest among similarly sized utilities in their respective regions.
And following an independent survey of customers at 140 of the largest utilities in the U.S., PPL Electric and Kentucky Utilities were recognized by Escalent as two of the most trusted utility brands in the nation. Across PPL, we also continue to foster a culture of innovation, investing in advanced technology and data analytics to deliver industry-leading reliability and enterprise-wide cost efficiencies. This resulted in multiple industry awards in 2021, including the use of dynamic line rating, technology, and the use of data analytics to better target vegetation management.
With an eye towards keeping reliability strong and empowering our customers, we also continue to invest in the future. This included executing more than $2 billion in infrastructure improvements to further strengthen grid resilience, modernize our networks, incorporate advanced technology and pave the way for increased electrification and renewable energy in our service territories.
Turning to Slide 5, over the past year, we also delivered on our commitments to deliver a sustainable PPL for our shareowners, employees and the communities we serve. We made significant progress in advancing our clean energy strategy. We adopted a net zero carbon emissions goal, accelerated our interim emissions reduction targets to 70% from 2010 levels by 2035 and 80% by 2040. And we also accelerated our coal plant retirement schedule. Separately, we announced a commitment of over $50 million in new investments to fund research and development in the clean energy space with our planned investments in EIP and EPRI's low carbon resources initiative.
We also launched a new partnership to study carbon capture at natural gas combined cycle power plants and reached new agreements to provide an additional 125 megawatts of solar power to major Kentucky customers. In November, we published our latest comprehensive climate assessment report, which highlights the risks associated with climate change and the opportunities in responding to it and evaluate potential future emissions under multiple scenario. This included a scenario consistent with limiting global warming to 1.5 degree Celsius.
Our climate assessment outlines our clean energy strategy and goals to enable a responsible transition that balances our commitments to the environment, our customers, our employees and our communities. LG and KU also submitted their triennial joint integrated resource plan, which reflected a significant increase in projected renewable additions in the 15-year planning horizon compared to our prior plan. We expect the trend of a more rapid de-carbonization of our generation fleet in Kentucky to continue with further improvements in cost and technology for renewables as well as other clean energy technologies.
In addition to our focus on advancing our clean energy transition, we also remain very engaged in the communities we serve and with our employees throughout 2021. We continue to move PPL forward by creating a more diverse and inclusive workplace. We implemented an enterprise-wide diversity, equity and inclusion strategy, adopted DEI commitment, increased diversity within our leadership ranks overall workforce and the Board, and we expanded our support for social justice and equity initiatives in the communities we serve.
In addition, we continue to create new opportunities through business resource groups for employee of all backgrounds and experiences to collaborate, share perspectives and contribute to PPL's success. Our strong commitment to diversity and inclusion received recognition for multiple organizations in 2021, with PPL being named the Best Place to Work for LGBTQ equality and disability inclusion as well as a top company for ESG. In this January, PPL once again was named a Best Place to Work for LGBTQ equality, marking the sixth straight year PPL has received this recognition.
During our fall giving campaign, PPL employees and retirees collectively raised more money than ever before, more than $7 million in individual pledges and corporate matching contributions that will help lift individuals, families and communities. And in the aftermath of the Kentucky tornado, we responded quickly, providing financial support to assist Kentucky families and businesses.
In other highlights, we continue to build an exceptional management team that we believe will lead PPL to its best years to come. We promoted Greg Dudkin to Chief Operating Officer and are leveraging his experience in building one of the most advanced utilities in the nation in PPL Electric Utilities to drive further value for stakeholders across all of PPL's operating companies. We're extremely excited to have Wendy Stark on our team as our new General Counsel. Wendy's extensive experience in regulatory matters and her deep knowledge of our industry have made her a great addition to PPL.
We named two new utility president in Pennsylvania and Kentucky, with Stephanie Raymond in Pennsylvania, and John Crockett in Kentucky. Stephanie is the first female utility president in our company's 100-year history. We also named a highly qualified and experienced leadership team in Rhode Island led by Dave Bonenberger from PPL and numerous talented employees from National Grid to lead our electric and gas operations pending the completion of the acquisition.
We also took steps to strengthen our corporate governance during the year. Our Board of Directors appointed an outstanding leader and experienced Board member as Independent Board Chair in Craig Rogerson, reflecting PPL's continued commitment to strong corporate governance and independent oversight by a diverse engaged Board. And Heather Redman, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of Flying Fish Partners was a welcomed addition to our highly experienced Board of Directors, and brings a wealth of expertise in disruptive technologies and the energy industry.
In summary, across our business, we made tremendous progress in 2021 as we pursued our strategy to deliver sustainable value for all stakeholders and position PPL for future growth and success.
With that, I'll now turn the call over to Joe for the financial update. Joe?