In the United States, it is not uncommon for power companies to sue the federal government and its agencies in order to prevent regulations in areas such as emissions from being put into place. Typically, power companies and other industrial entities only reduce emissions when forced to, based on regulations that have been enacted. And while in some other countries, it is not uncommon for sweeping pledges of pollution reduction to be made, that is not something that occurs with any substantial level of frequency within the United States. Because of these elements, the announcement by NRG Energy that it is making a commitment without the pressure of regulation forcing its hand to reduce its emissions independently is quite surprising. This bold initiative comes not from a small, upstart company with limited infrastructure and emissions, but from a leader in northeastern power production, a company with more than 100 already existing power plants.
But it isn’t just the market share or size of NRG Energy that makes the pledge to reduce its own emissions going forward so significant. Also significant is the degree to which NRG will be cutting its emissions and the extended period over which the company will be holding itself accountable. According to NRG leadership, the company is attempting to usher in a more environmentally friendly era and is pledging to cut carbon emissions by 50 percent by the year 2030, and by an astonishing 90 percent by the year 2050. The pledge came alongside a groundbreaking ceremony in Princeton, New Jersey for the company’s new, sustainable headquarters.
NRG is the second-largest conventional power company in the United States, and this move may come as a surprise, as it might initially appear to harm the company’s ability to compete within the marketplace. However, the move will likely produce a great amount of goodwill toward the company, and it makes sense for NRG to be ahead of the game when it comes to complying with potential future regulations. In addition, such a large company pushing for cleaner technology may encourage other companies in the power generation industry to follow its lead, encouraging more widely available and less expensive mechanisms for clean energy production.
According to Leah Seligmann, the chief sustainability officer of NRG, “We can either become extinct or we can become involved.” Indeed, the faster the energy industry moves to explore sustainable solutions, the better it will fare as climate change becomes a more significant, impossible-to-ignore issue.
In addition to the pledge to cut its own emissions, NRG has been active in other pursuits related to clean energy. For example, the company has a growing residential solar power portfolio and a number of electric vehicle charging stations. NRG’s Home Solar division also intends to offer loans to customers who wish to install their own solar programs; yet another unique offering from an energy company.