NRG Energy Is As Committed As Ever To Sustainability

(3BL/JustMeans) When you are the leading integrated energy company with a firm commitment to sustainable energy, announcing a new plan to transform your business might shake up stakeholders. NRG Energy is that company, and its recent announcement of its transformation plan caused some stakeholders to query the company about its commitment to being a sustainable energy company.

Not to worry. The company is as committed as ever to both creating a sustainable energy future and being a sustainable company. As Bruno Sarda, Vice President, Sustainability, NRG Energy assured in a blog post, “You can count on NRG to stay true to our sustainability commitments and to remain transparent about our progress,” he declared.

NRG’s transformation plan is meant to strengthen the company’s bottom line and better position it to capitalize on growth opportunities in the future. It still sees renewable energy as an important part of the energy mix. The company’s Business Review Committee unanimously recommended the plan, and it was unanimously supported and approved by the Board of Directors and management. The three-part, three-year plan has targets in operational and cost excellence, portfolio optimization, capital structure and allocation enhancement. Most of the targets are achievable by the end of 2018.

“Sustainability permeates NRG’s entire business and operations,” Sarda said in his blog post. The company’s goals that address climate change are a good illustration. In 2014, it set goals to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. The only way that those goals can be met is through carbon emissions reductions of its conventional power generation assets and not by reducing its carbon profile through adding low-carbon assets such as renewable energy, according to Sarda. He cites three “key levers” that NRG is using to make progress toward its goals: switching coal-to-gas, plant retirements and shifting from baseload to flexible fast-start generation capacity.

Since setting its GHG reduction goals, NRG has proved it is serious about meeting them. In 2015, it became one of the first 10 companies to have its carbon emission reduction targets approved by the the Science Based Targets initiative, a joint effort by CDP, the World Resources Institute, the World Wildlife Fund and the U.N. Global Compact. A year later, NRG announced it completed coal-to-gas projects at three power plants that totaled 2.2 gigawatts. The modifications of the three power plants reduce their combined carbon footprint by over 80 percent. NRG had reduced its GHG emissions by 36 percent by the end of 2016.

NRG completed the largest post-combustion carbon capture facility in the world at its WA Parish Generating Station southwest of Houston. The company partnered with JX Nippon Oil and Gas Exploration and Hilcorp Energy Co. to complete the project which started operating in 2016. It combines carbon capture with enhanced oil recovery (EOR) to increase the supply of domestic oil while decreasing carbon emissions. It captures over 90 percent of the carbon from a 240 megawatt equivalent slipstream of flue gas. That amount of carbon is equivalent to removing over 350,000 cars from the road. The captured carbon is transported through an 80-mile pipeline to an oil field where oil production is expected to increase from around 300 barrels a day to a peak of 15,000 barrels a day while sequestering 1.6 million tons of carbon a year.

NRG is a leader in the transformation to a low carbon world. In a time when the US federal government lags on climate change action, companies like NRG are moving forward to reduce GHG emissions.

Photo: NRG