Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Texan by Nature is excited to recognize NRG Energy as a 2022 TxN 20 honoree for their leadership in conservation and sustainability. NRG Energy’s commitment to conservation, their projects, programs, best practices, and lessons learned are an example and inspiration for us all.
Honoree Name: NRG Energy
Honoree Industry and Size: Energy – Enterprise
Company Overview: At NRG, we’re bringing the power of energy to people and organizations by putting customers at the center of everything we do. We generate electricity and provide energy solutions and natural gas to millions of customers through our diverse portfolio of retail brands. A Fortune 200 company operating in the United States and Canada, NRG delivers innovative solutions while advocating for competitive energy markets and customer choice, working toward a sustainable energy future.
What is NRG Energy’s conservation and sustainability mission and why is it important to your culture?
Sustainability is a philosophy that underpins and facilitates value creation across our business for our stakeholders. It is an integral piece of our corporate strategy and ties directly to business success, reduced risk, and enhancing reputational value. Our sustainability strategy spans five comprehensive key pillars–business, customers, workplace, operations, and suppliers – that help embed sustainability into the culture and fabric of our organization.
How is conservation and sustainability a part of NRG Energy’s business strategy?
Sustainability at NRG is centered on clear climate commitments that help to shape our strategy and approach to meeting our goals. This prioritization of sustainability has led us to tie our financial strategy to our sustainability goals through the issuance of sustainability-linked funding mechanisms. In 2020, when faced with financing our acquisition of Direct Energy, we decided to partially fund the endeavor by issuing a sustainability-linked bond, making us the first North American company to issue a bond of this type. The bond ties our emissions reduction goals to interest rate benefits.
NRG has a comprehensive, four-pronged decarbonization strategy comprised of decarbonizing existing business lines, diversifying into low-emissions businesses, including renewables, retiring or divesting non-core higher-emissions assets, and capturing residual emissions. This supports NRG’s transition from a wholesale electricity generator to an integrated full-service energy retailer, providing residential, small business, commercial, and industrial customers with various energy and energy-adjacent products and services. This both reduces NRG’s reliance on revenue from electricity generation while also reducing the direct emissions from NRG’s business activities.
Sustainability is integral to NRG’s purpose of bringing the power of energy to people and organizations, and many of the energy products and services we provide to our customers help them reduce their carbon footprints—like 100% renewable electricity plans, demand response, sustainability advisory services, certified carbon offsets for natural gas and many more. We are continuing to grow such offerings and identify new ones.
What are NRG Energy’s short and long-term goals as they relate to conservation and sustainability?
NRG has set a goal of a 50% reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 2025, from its current 2014 baseline and the achievement of net-zero emissions by 2050. As of 2021, these targets have been validated by the Science Based Targets initiative as 1.5 degree Celsius aligned. NRG has also committed to 100% electrification of its light-duty fleet by 2030.
Further, NRG, in alignment with these goals, is dedicated to transparency and disclosure regarding its climate progress and takes part in a variety of third-party disclosures, including CDP (Carbon Disclosure Project), SASB (Sustainability Accounting Standards Board), TCFD, GRI (Global Reporting Initiative), and participates in several multi-stakeholder group consortia working to scale various decarbonization pathways. NRG also became a founding sponsor of Greentown Labs’ expansion to Houston. Greentown Labs is the largest climate-tech startup incubator in North America and brings together start-ups, corporations, investors, policymakers, and others with a focus on scaling climate solutions. NRG became a founding supporter of a new clean energy accelerator hosted by the Rice Alliance for Technology and Entrepreneurship at Rice University in Houston. The accelerator supports early-stage energy start-ups worldwide, with access to the Rice Alliance network of energy companies, investors, advisors, and Rice’s energy tech venture forums.
As of 2021, we have reduced our emissions by 44% based on a 2014 baseline. We have had a revenue carbon intensity decrease of 64% since 2019, and coal generation currently represents less than 5% of our total revenue. To accomplish this, we have continued to divest portions of our generation as we rebalance our portfolio to best meet the energy needs of our customers while working toward our decarbonization goals. We have also continued to acquire contract renewable energy generation. To date, we have contracted close to 2.4 GW of wind and solar generation with developers, effectively enabling them to access financing and begin construction of these projects. We have continued to look for additional opportunities to support the development of renewable generation.
Who at NRG Energy is leading your conservation and sustainability efforts and what are some examples of employee engagement in conservation and sustainability at your company?
Mauricio Gutierrez, NRG’s President and CEO, has overall responsibility for the company’s climate change-related issues and management, including creating and approving emissions reduction goals. The CEO reviews all sustainability-related strategies, goals, targets, and metrics, which are then reviewed and approved by the governance and nominating committee and the full Board of Directors. The CEO is directly involved with creating and approving NRG’s emissions reduction goals. For example, in 2019, the CEO made the previously described decision to accelerate NRG’s emissions reduction goals to be in line with a 1.5 Celsius degree trajectory.
Jeanne-Mey Sun, NRG’s VP of Sustainability, oversees the development and implementation of all sustainability-related strategies and programs and is responsible for developing NRG’s climate change policy positions and coordination between policy and commercial initiatives. This includes drafting and publishing NRG’s climate-related transition documents, engaging with investors and analysts on integrating ESG factors into reporting practices, and advising on both business-to-business and business-to-consumer low-carbon energy solutions.
Regarding employee engagement with conservation and environmental efforts, those initiatives are supported by our giving arm, positiveNRG, and our community marketing programs that serve as the organizers and planners for volunteer opportunities in our community that support storm relief, community development, planting, and other local initiatives that help to increase sustainability and resilience in our communities and Texas—our home—in particular. These groups also support internal opportunities for employees to learn, adopt, and support conservation and environmental projects and initiatives by providing engagement opportunities.
For example, in 2021, NRG employees participated in planting, landscaping, and other green initiatives in celebration of Earth Month and alongside local nonprofits. The organization also engaged employees in rebuilding damaged homes and providing resources for disaster relief in partnership with Attack Poverty and the Houston Food Bank.
Internally, positiveNRG has supported employees’ efforts to embrace sustainability by creating a CSA (community-supported agriculture) program and enlisting employees to stay involved in recycling and other conservation efforts in all our offices and facilities.
“Volunteer events are important because we want to support a sustainable lifestyle and embrace NRG’s goal of being good stewards of our community.”
-Bill Evans, Vice President, Business Operations, NRG
What conservation and sustainability programs and projects does NRG Energy lead and participate in?
NRG Prairie Dewey Garden
In partnership with Texan by Nature, this is a reclamation project of 10 acres of lignite mine near Jewett, Texas. The Dewey Prairie Garden is a service garden—including a wetland area, pollinator habitat, and future orchard—that will provide 10,000 lbs of fresh produce to alleviate food insecurity in Leon, Freestone, and Limestone Counties. Located in a food desert, where food insecurity was 51% higher than the national average, the produce provided by the garden will go to local food pantries to feed an estimated 3,000 people annually. Read more about the NRG Dewey Prairie Garden.
Reliant EcoShare Program
Launched in 2011, the program allows customers to use their electricity bills to support EarthShare Texas and purchase carbon offsets. Focused on providing an opportunity for retail customers to lessen their impact on the environment while also supporting conservation and environmental projects in the state of Texas. For as little as $3.95 per month, customers can provide support to a wealth of local initiatives—with the support of EarthShare Texas—such as providing seeds to a community garden to grow nutritious and affordable produce, protecting acres of farmland, and removing thousands of pounds of trash from Texas beaches by supporting affiliated organizations. Reliant EcoShare has raised a total of $2 million dollars and, in recognition of the achievement, Reliant planted 24 trees at a local elementary school in Texas, employing the help of 30 volunteers from EarthShare and Reliant.
Green Mountain Sun Club
Founded in 2002, Sun Club is focused on developing nonprofit partnerships and providing sustainability grants, to support projects promoting renewable energy, energy efficiency, resource conservation, and environmental stewardship. In 2021, Sun Club awarded more than $1.3 million in grants—for a total of over 11.3 million over the lifetime of the program. These grants funded 10 new projects, including the 100th project funded in the State of Texas. Projects funded by Sun Club have resulted in 18MM kWh of solar electricity generated, 4MM lbs of CO2 avoided, and 10MM of rainwater gathered. Other achievements of the program include its first aquaponic farm installation, 177,550 pounds of produce grown, 29million pounds of CO2 avoided over the life of the program, and 143 projects in total completed.
NRG Princeton Building
In 2017, NRG designed its Princeton Building to be a representative of sustainable design and was LEED Platinum Certified because of the implementation of solar photovoltaic power (617 kW) on our roof and parking lot, a solar thermal unit used to heat water for the building, a combined Heat and Power (CHP) plant (250 kW) that meets annual electricity demand and reuses thermal energy to meet HVAC needs, 5 00 kW lithium-ion battery energy storage system that supports demand response and solar energy peak smoothing, a rainwater Capture feeds rainwater into four 15,000-gallon cisterns where the water is used for the non-potable needs of flushing toilets and saves approximately 150,000 gallons of local water annually, and a green roof that helps with rainwater management, air quality and building insulation in summer and winter.
How does NRG Energy see the future of conservation and sustainability evolving, and what role will your company play in that progress?
We believe that the future of conservation and sustainability is intimately tied with the future of energy. Over the last several years, electricity has moved away from being merely a commodity, becoming something both personal and essential for daily life. People, more than ever, want their power their way, and a key part of this is the desire for a more sustainable way to power their lives. That’s where we see our role in the sustainability journey as a provider that can make customizing energy to the needs, desires, and aspirations possible and accessible. By providing solutions that do more than just power your home, we can help customers, both large and small, on their own decarbonization journeys and, in turn, help us all get a bit closer to a cleaner energy future.
“On the path to a more equitable future for all, NRG recognizes the collective impact that businesses and conservation leaders have as agents of change, as well as our responsibility to the people and communities where we work and live. We are constantly looking for new ways to advance our environmental, social, and governance efforts while also helping our customers do the same. It is an honor to be recognized by the Texan by Nature 20 for our commitments and our progress.”
-Mauricio Gutierrez, President and CEO, NRG Energy
How does NRG Energy quantify investment and return on conservation and sustainability?
In December 2020, NRG pioneered the first sustainability-linked bond in North America and the first issued by any energy company outside Europe. In concert with our acquisition of Direct Energy, the SLB supports our effort to pursue growth, achieve our climate transition strategy, and bring increasing value to our stakeholders. As a complement to the sustainability-linked pricing metric added to the NRG corporate credit agreement in 2019, the issuance of the sustainability-linked bond aligns our business and financing with commitments and values by creating a direct link between climate and funding strategies. The sustainability-linked bond links attractive financing to the realization of previously announced goals to achieve a 50% reduction of absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2025 from our current 2014 baseline and reach net-zero GHG emissions by 2050.
Beyond monetary return, environmental investment also benefits us by contributing to our brand reputation and improving investment as modern stakeholders place increasing importance on social consciousness and the actions taken by organizations such as NRG. Additionally, it allows us to engage with our communities—consumers, customers, nonprofits, and legislators—in a way that creates strong and long-lasting relationships from a place of mutual responsibility and respect, which benefits our business from both brand loyalty and organizational success.
What is the one lesson that NRG Energy has learned from your conservation and sustainability efforts that others can take back and think about applying within their own space?
We have learned about the importance of breaking down siloes. We firmly believe sustainability shouldn’t be treated as a “separate” function and have continued to shape our organization so sustainability is embedded across the company and made a priority of every business unit – from finance to operations and across our retail brands. This yields integrated, multi-layered solutions from the top down and across every department. Further, our work has underscored the importance of listening closely to our stakeholders – including customers, investors, consumers, and policy partners—so, we’re constantly updating our product, financing, and sustainability solutions with their needs and goals front and center. Another key lesson we have learned along our sustainability journey is to draw on the expertise of experts and stakeholders from various fields to inform our efforts.
Why is Texas an important home or base of operations for NRG Energy?
For us, Texas is our home. It is where we live, where we are headquartered, and its residents are our customers and neighbors. In Houston, we have been closely tied to our community for years—whether it be through collaboration with our nonprofit partners, bringing our ambitions together with a variety of academic consortia, the cleantech community to jumpstart and further decarbonization efforts, or the opportunity to facilitate the progress of advancing the sustainability goals of homes and businesses. NRG and our subsidiaries are truly a part of Texas, and as such, we continue to look for new ways to foster its growth and progress.
Learn more about NRG Energy’s conservation and sustainability efforts here.
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Reliantgives, NRG retail brand Reliant’s charitable program, contributed over $5.5 million dollars and 4,000 volunteer hours to 150 local causes. Reliantgives partners with sustainability and conservation-focused non-profits, including EarthShare, Dallas Zoo, Central and West Texas Zoo, Texas State Aquarium, Galveston Bay Foundation, and the Dallas Arboretum.
In partnership with Texan by Nature, this is a reclamation project of 10 acres of lignite mine near Jewett, Texas. The Dewey Prairie Garden is a service garden—including a wetland area, pollinator habitat, and future orchard—that will provide 10,000 lbs of fresh produce to alleviate food insecurity in Leon, Freestone, and Limestone Counties.
As one of Dallas Zoo’s corporate partners, Reliant provides critical general operating support and support of conservation efforts in 32 countries and 4 continents around the world. The largest part of their conservation spending is on Texas Wildlife conservation efforts.
DFW Airport, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas
San Antonio, Texas