On November 20, NRG Energy, one of the largest energy companies in the United States, announced plans to reduce its carbon emissions 50 percent by 2030 and 90 percent by 2050. This new goal builds on NRG Energy’s previous success reducing carbon emissions 40 percent since 2005, and will use 2014’s reduced level of emissions as a baseline for the new emissions cuts. “As the U.S. transitions to a renewables-driven, increasingly distributed, grid resilient energy system, we expect to be a leader in clean energy and in converting the carbon emissions of our conventional generation from a liability to a profitable by-product,” commented NRG Energy CEO David Crane.
Google, IBM, Ikea, Walmart and many other companies have actively committed to reducing their carbon footprints, but few other power companies have made commitments like NRG Energy’s. David Crane added that his company’s move is also aimed at coloring it in a more favorable light for future generations. “If divestment from fossil fuel companies becomes the issue that preoccupies college campuses around America for the next decade, I don’t relish the idea that year after year we’re going to be graduating a couple million kids from college, who are going to […] come out of college with a distaste or disdain for companies like mine,” Crane explained.
NRG Energy’s decision is especially remarkable given that its collection of fossil fuel power plants is one of the largest in the United States. They stated that when they achieve 90 percent emissions reductions in 2050, it will prevent the release of three billion metric tons of carbon dioxide, equivalent to the fuel and electricity needs of seven million homes over 36 years. NRG Energy plans to continue its use of coal power plants by retrofitting them to capture carbon emissions and either sequester the carbon underground or sell it (carbon is an input in several industrial processes). The company took its first step down this path recently when it invested in a coal power plant carbon capture project in Texas called Petra Nova, which was previously one of the five dirtiest U.S. power plants. The project is designed to capture 90 percent of the plant’s carbon emissions and use the resulting carbon in oil extraction before eventually sequestering it belowground.
NRG has also been investing in renewable energy and electric vehicles (EVs), to accompany its cleaner fuel push. The company is working on a charging network for EVs, and was a major investor in the Ivanpah concentrated solar power plant which began generating power commercially this year in the Mojave Desert. NRG Energy also recently announced it will be expanding into the rooftop solar industry in California. In addition, NRG Energy announced its headquarters have grown too small for its current size, and that it will be constructing a state-of-the-art building which “characterizes the NRG vision.” The building, due to open in 2016, will use combined heat and power (CHP), be off-grid capable, use energy-efficient lighting, rainwater harvesting, solar power generation, and have the ability to both charge electric vehicles and use them as a back-up power supply.
Author: Laura Small