January 30, 2018 Read More →

‘Energy Execs Sound More Like Wild-Eyed Hippies Every Day’


Oldsters like me remember when the idea that (unsubsidized) renewable energy would be able to compete directly with fossil fuels was downright utopian. As late as the early 2000s, people were debating whether it would happen this century, or at all.

But the extraordinary progress of renewables in the past two decades has moved that hoped-for future closer and closer. And now, unbelievably, it is right on our doorstep.

It’s one thing for advocates or energy analysts to say that, of course. It’s something else to hear it coming out of the mouths of energy executives. But these days, residents of the C-suite are discussing renewable energy in terms that would have made hippies blush a decade ago.

The latest is Jim Robo, CEO of NextEra Energy, a giant energy company with subsidiaries that include Florida Power & Light (America’s third-largest utility, with 4.8 million customers) and NextEra Energy Resources, which boasts of being “the world’s largest generator of renewable energy from the wind and sun.”

On a Q4 earnings conference call on Friday, Robo predicted that by the early 2020s, it will be cheaper to build new renewables than to continue running existing coal and nuclear plants. That’s … crazy.

This wasn’t some aspirational post on the company blog, either; it was a call with investors, to whom Robo is legally beholden. And it comes on the heels of other mind-boggling news from the utility sector, like a solicitation for energy bids in Colorado that turned up renewables+storage projects that will come within striking distance of existing coal plants by the early 2020s.

Here are the costs Robo anticipates “early in the next decade”:

  • Unsubsidized new wind: 2.0-2.5 cents per kilowatt-hour
  • Unsubsidized new solar: 3.0-4.0 cents per kilowatt-hour
  • Variable operating costs of existing coal or nuclear plants: 3.5-5.0 cents per kilowatt-hour

More: Utility CEO: new renewables will be cheaper than existing coal plants by the early 2020s

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