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Crane talks NRG departure, industry future

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Essential Energy Insights - February 2021

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Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021

Six trends shaping the industries and sectors we cover in 2021


Crane talks NRG departure, industry future

FormerNRG Energy Inc.President and CEO David Crane has no regrets about his bid to move the companytoward "the new frontier of the energy business."

Duringa brief discussion at the Bloomberg New Energy Finance summit in New York CityApril 5, Crane shared with the audience his thoughts about the future of theindustry and reflected on his tenure at NRG. Crane in December 2015 following months ofstock price declines amid efforts to transition the fossil fuel-heavy merchantgenerator to a cleaner, more sustainable business model.

Atthe event Crane appeared in good spirits about his departure, telling the audiencethat his non-compete with NRG in the clean energy space ends this week andjoking about displaying his phone number for potential employers. EthanZindler, head of Americas and policy at BNEF, interviewed Crane, kicking offthe discussion with a question about Crane's farewell letter to employees that reiterated his beliefin clean energy.

Zindlerread a piece of that letter that said "the new frontier of the energybusiness that I pushed the company into, were then, and are still now, in thelong-term best interest of the company's employees, its shareholders, itscustomers and the earth we all inhabit. As a company that aspires to growth,there is no growth in our sector outside of clean energy; only slow butirreversible contraction following the path of fixed line telephony."

Cranesaid he would not take back any part of that statement.

Cranesaid the biggest mistake he made was that while growing the renewable side ofNRG, moves should have been made to reduce the size of the conventional side ofthe business.  

"Oneof the biggest issues that we had from an investor perspective was therenewable side, even though we were the first or second largest solar companyin the United States at the time, it never mattered to investors at all … itjust made the investment proposition more complex," Crane said.

Atthe end of that day, that led to his departure, which he characterized as afiring.

Speakingabout the future of the industry, Crane said it is important for the industryto innovate and better understand consumers.

"Thebiggest issue is getting people to care," he said.

Homesolar and electric vehicles can get people to care, Crane said. He said theTesla Model 3, which comes with a $35,000 price tag and received 276,000preorders as of April 3, gets people to think about different ways of gettingand consuming energy.

Craneis particularly bullish on the future of electric vehicles, versus thepotential for hydrogen or compressed natural gas vehicles.

"Wealready have this trillion dollar infrastructure set up to bring electricityinto almost every corner of America, now we just need an extension cord and wehandle the transportation side," he said.