Three green technologies set to transform energy
At the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco, NRG Energy CEO David Crane discusses how smart meters, distributed-solar projects, and plug-in electric vehicles could potentially cause disruptive change in the energy industry.
disruptive business suits
>> So there are three innovative technologies, which I believe individually and collectively will transform people's perception of clean energy and cause disruptive change in our industry over the short to median term. As such, while I know there are many many good ideas in this room and with the tools that you're going to be equipped with, you'll be able to follow all of those ideas and invest in them. But there are three, I think, that are really potentially disruptive technologies, distributed solar, plug-in electric vehicles, and smart meters, and that's what we're focused on at NRG. Smart meters, while promising, lately I've met with a combination of consumer apathy and in some cases down right hostility in areas where they had been deployed in mass like here in the Bay Area. Part of the problem is that the deployments in some parts of the country have been mishandled. But the other problem is that smart meters currently being deployed are limited in the benefit they provide to the consumer. For the most part, all that smart meters do currently is allow consumers to receive more and better information about their home energy usage. The problem is, and this is a problem that I don't think is going to change in the twenty-first century, home energy usage is a subject that almost no American cares to have more information about. However, when smart meter technology is installed in connection with a solar array on your roof and an electric car charger in your garage, the economics of smart meter technology and the capabilities will become compelling to the average consumer. Stated differently, the ultimate potency of smart meters as a disruptive technology is in its deployment in association with the other two disruptive technologies that I want to talk about now. And everything we are doing at NRG is preparing for the day where these three technologies can be deployed together. So when it comes to electric vehicles, I think we have two obvious challenges. First, getting the sticker price down to the consumer, and second, breaking the chicken and egg issue between consumer acceptance and range and anxiety. And obviously, as an electric company, we are focused on solving the second issue. As we speak, we are well underway in Houston and Dallas, Fort Worth in building out the first privately funded electric vehicle of charging infrastructure network, which we call eVgo. eVgo is predicated on a subscription business model where you can purchase unlimited miles for one monthly charge, much like minutes on your cell phone. While it's still early days in terms of electric vehicle acceptance in Texas, eVgo is off to a very promising start. More than eighty percent of the people in Houston who have purchased electric vehicles in the past year have signed up for the eVgo service. And last but not least, we're huge believers in the disruptive potential of solar power, particularly distributed solar generation. As Matt said, we have invested deeply in large solar projects. We've committed over a billion dollars of NRG equity into utility scale solar projects that that billion dollars of NRG equity is translated again to six and a half billion dollars of solar projects that are currently either under construction or in various phases of operation. So a thousand megawatts there, a thousand more megawatts in advance develop, and almost all these utility scale projects are in or near California or selling to California utilities. And so we're clearly excited and committed to our utility scale projects, but it's distributed solar, which we believe is going to be the most disruptive to the hub and spoke power system that has dominated this country for the last hundred years. The solar industry has vividly demonstrated over the past three years that solar power as a nanotechnology, the cost and performance of it is clearly subject to some version of Moore's Law. Prices of modules have dropped like a stone. Now all of us in this room need to get the cost of the rest of the value chain involved in the installation of distributed solar down as well. When we do, and I'm a hundred percent confident that we will, we will be in a position to offer distributed solar in a price range that is at or below retail grid parity in roughly half of the fifty states. Music