NRG, one of the largest energy companies in the US, generates and sells both “brown” power (i.e. made from fossil fuels) and green power (largest developer of solar in the country, fifth largest wind developer). As part of its sponsorship of the NFL, NRG has highly visible solar installations at eight stadiums.
The company’s improve will no doubt improve due to its stunning announcement about planned, long-term emissions reductions.
A GreenSportsBlog confession: I really want to share with you the story of NRG’s bold commitment, announced in Environmental Leader, to reduce its CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and a whopping 90 percent by 2050, but that story does not, in and of itself, have a sports hook.
So to keep true to the mantra of GreenSportsBlog (“the intersection of Green and Sports) I am making mention of NRG’s strong involvement in sports: As an NFL sponsor, the company has installed solar panels at eight NFL venues, the most recent being at the brand new Levi’s Stadium, the LEED Gold home of the San Francisco 49ers in Santa Clara.
Now that the Green-Sports link has been made, let’s get to the NRG CO2 reduction story because it is big.
Let’s be clear: NRG is a huge CO2 emitter — one of the top five in the U.S. Hey, they’re one of the top five electricity generators in U.S. and, as of 2014, most electricity in this country is still generated by burning coal and natural gas (and nuclear, which does not emit CO2.)
NRG burns lots of coal and natural gas.
What is also true is the company has made massive moves into renewables over the last 10 years or so, leading to a 40 percent reduction in overall CO2 emissions since 2005. Why have they done so?
My strong sense is that NRG management believes that becoming the leading Big Energy company in renewables is both the right thing to do and, more importantly to them, great business.
By its sheer size and financial might, NRG can build renewable capacity at a scale not yet seen in the U.S. And, by having “first mover advantage”, it will become the Big (Renewable) Energy brand, thus attracting more investment to fund more projects, and more clean energy generation.
As of now, the company has 150 renewable energy development projects up and running, including the aforementioned NFL stadiums plus a roof-top installation at the Arizona State University basketball arena. But, while this is impressive, it is the commitment to become THE First, Big Renewable Energy Company over the next 35 years that is the real story.
Rooftop solar array at Arizona State University’s basketball arena, one of NRG’s 150 current renewable energy projects, nine of which are sports related. NRG plans to reduce its overall CO2 emissions by 50 percent by 2030 and by 90 percent by 2050 (Photo credit: Arizona State University)
How will NRG achieve its CO2 emissions reduction targets?
By expanding its renewable development and generation capacity and by taking the lead in new clean energy technologies, including energy storage, carbon sequestration, energy efficiency and low-carbon distributed energy resources.
On the latter, NRG looks to distributed (i.e. small scale) solar, co-generation, and electric vehicle networks that could sell excess power back to the grid.
The company’s new state-of-the-art headquarters in Princeton, NJ, scheduled to open in 2016, will be a testament to NRG’s shift to cleanly generated electricity. Some of the most exciting features of the new campus include:
- Two on-site solar fields, with roughly 765 kW of capacity
- High-efficiency LED lighting combined with daylight harvesting to reduce indoor lighting needs
- 12,000 gallons of rainwater harvesting capacity to reduce use of Princeton city water by 80 percent;
- 30+ electric vehicle charging stations with infrastructure for EV-to-grid (eV2g) “back-feed” capability
- Significant additional energy efficiency provided through innovative combined heat and power (CHP) systems for heating and cooling
- Grid power, to the extent it is used, will be 100 percent renewable energy through Green Mountain Energy, one of NRG’s green retail subsidiaries .
Assuming NRG meets its CO2 emissions reductions targets (a big assumption, to be sure), the estimate is that over three billion tons of CO2 emissions will be avoided. That’s big. How big? Big like the Jets winning 15 Super Bowls between now and 2050. OK, let’s get real — it would be like the Jets winning ONE Super Bowl between now and 2050!
And that last bit makes this a legitimate GreenSportsBlog post.
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Great post! Thought the detail on NRG was excellent. Perhaps as we reach solar grid parity on a wider scale NRG will curtail even more of that brown power and replace with green power. Fingers crossed.
You bet! Here’s a link to a story from yesterday’s NY Times that shows the dramatic cost drop in solar and wind generation–leading to parity with the cost of fossil fuel generation…which will hopefully make it easier for the NRG’s of the world to shift from brown to green: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/11/24/business/energy-environment/solar-and-wind-energy-start-to-win-on-price-vs-conventional-fuels.html?_r=0
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