Publicly saying what has been well known in the power generation industry for some time, NextEra Chairman and CEO James ‘Jim’ Robo voiced his company’s recognition that renewable generation and storage, deployed together, are cheaper to operate then coal, natural gas, or nuclear power plants. Speaking at the Wolfe Utilities and Energy Conference, Robo laid out a vision for his company in the hope that it can continue its rapid growth and financial success.
With power generation and energy storage technologies advancing quickly, this outcome has been inevitable and industry experts expected this day to arrive, but for one of America’s largest utilities to publicly announce it’s arrival now is newsworthy.
One of the challenges for power generation developers is the long-term commitment inherent in the business. Power plants are expected to last and operate for decades, and are capitalized over the long term. A commitment made today, might pencil out in today’s market or the immediate future, but investors are beginning to balk knowing that the same plant may be unable to generate profits competing against rapidly deploying wind power, solar, and energy storage in the years immediately beyond the horizon.
With no exposure to volatility in fuel prices, renewable energy investments are highly predictable, especially when financed using long-term contracts, or power purchase agreement (PPA’s). Robo knows how to make money for shareholders and they seem to be firmly buckled in for the path he’s chosen. Competitors are taking note.