Coal-heavy NRG Energy looks to cut carbon emissions 90% by 2050 - Smart Energy Decisions

Energy Procurement, GHG Emissions, Industrial, Distributed Generation, Industrial, Solar, Sourcing Renewables  -  June 6, 2016

Coal-heavy NRG Energy looks to cut carbon emissions 90% by 2050

NRG Energy, one of largest owners of coal-fired power generation in the country, recently affirmed plans to reduce its carbon emissions over the coming decades: the power company's goal is to cut CO2 and CO2 equivalent emissions 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 from a 2014 baseline.

The targets are higher than those implied under the U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan, which aims to collectively cut carbon emissions from the power sector by 30% by 2030.

NRG Energy said in its 2016 sustainability report that "'[b]usiness as usual' is no longer an option in our industry," and that it plans to achieve its carbon reduction targets by converting coal-fired power plants to natural gas; optimizing plant performance with equipment and efficiency upgrades; developing utility-scale and distributed renewable energy projects; being a thought leader in driving a sustainable energy future through partnerships and innovative consumer and commercial product offerings; and through capturing and sequestering carbon emissions from fossil-fired power plants while gradually retiring certain aging power plants.

The company's statements came just months after its board of directors fired now-former President and CEO David Crane in a move widely attributed to Crane's strategy and vision for transitioning the company from its a traditional "brown" — read: fossil fuel — company to a green one. Following news of his departure in early December 2015, analysts and industry observers agreed the company was positioning itself on a "back-to-basics" and away from its clean energy and decentralized generation endeavors; NRG has since announced plans to sell its electric vehicle charging business and restructure — and shrink — its rooftop solar business, both segments Crane had championed. 

All that said, NRG Energy's new President and CEO, Mauricio Gutierrez, wrote in the company's sustainability report that the fight against climate change is "the most significant challenge of our generation," and that 2015 was a pivotal year in that regard. NRG, he added, was an active participant in the fight last year, having been "on the ground in Paris to demonstrate industry leadership," the company also supported the "We Mean Business Coalition" was a signatory of the American Business Act on Climate Pledge.

"As we continue our own transformation, I want to reaffirm our goals to reduce carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050," Gutierrez wrote. "These goals remain some of the industry’s most aggressive and substantive, placing us at the forefront of sustainability efforts across the country."

In a recent article in The New York Times, Gutierrez was quoted as saying he was not undoing NRG's previous, distributed green energy investments but is instead slowing them down. The Times reported:

[T]he strategy emerging under Mr. Gutierrez, who released NRG’s annual sustainability report on Friday, is less a retreat from green energy than a turn away from a nascent system of decentralized energy production. The focus has returned to large-scale power development, regardless of the fuel source.

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