The year 2018 promises to be an important one for electric power markets in the United States, including for energy policies that govern the way electricity is generated, delivered and used. Among the important developments will be the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s response to a controversial cost-recovery proposal by the Trump administration for coal and nuclear plants and the Environmental Protection Agency’s efforts to replace the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

All this comes as electric power markets in the United States continue to undergo disruption, with natural gas and renewable energy gaining ground on coal and nuclear power, and innovations such as microgrids, energy storage and analytics promising even bigger changes in the electricity business.

On a this episode of Columbia Energy Exchange, host Bill Loveless discusses the changes sweeping the industry, as well as the significance of public policy, with Mauricio Gutierrez, President and CEO of NRG Energy, one of the largest competitive power generators in the U.S. and a major energy retailer, serving nearly three-million customers throughout the country.

Mauricio joined NRG in 2004. He has served as Chief Operating Officer, led NRG's engineering and construction activities related to new generation and repowering projects, and he has overseen commodities trading as Executive Vice President, Commercial Operations and Senior Vice President, Commodities Trading. Prior to NRG, he was Managing Director of the Southeast and Texas regions for Dynegy and a senior consultant and project manager at Mexico City-based DTP Consultores.

Among many topics Bill and Mauricio discuss, several include: The future of competitive power markets in the U.S.; Reliability and resilience of the grid; Impacts of President Trump's efforts to save coal and nuclear power; Efforts by the power sector to reduce carbon emissions.

View the full transcript

[00:00:02]

Bill Loveless:  Hello and welcome to the Columbia Energy Exchange; a weekly podcast from the center on global energy policy at Columbia University.  From Washington, I’m Bill Loveless.  Today, we’ll take a look at electric power markets in the United States.  The disruptions that are sweeping them and the prospects for new public policies that respond to these changes.  Joining us to talk about this is Maurizio Gutierrez, the President and CEO of NRG Energy, one of the largest competitive power generators in the U.S.

With headquarters in Houston and New Jersey, NRG is also a major energy retailer, serving nearly 3 million customers throughout the country.  Maurizio  joined NRG in 2004 and worked his way up to become its head just over two years ago.  Since then, he’s been leading a major transformation of NRG aimed at keeping up with the times.  I asked him about that transformation as well as the future of competitive power markets in the U.S.  We also talked about the reliability and resilience of the grid and whether efforts by the Trump administration to save old coal and nuclear power plants would achieve those goals.

And of course, climate change came up in the conversation too, including the direction that companies like his are going in to reduce carbon emissions.  Maurizio and I got together in Washington during one of his recent visits here.  Maurizio Gutierrez, thanks for joining us on the Columbia Energy Exchange.

[00:01:34]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Thank Bill.  It’s great to be here.

[00:01:36]

Bill Loveless:  Maurizio, we’re sitting here in Washington, but I have to think that with someone like you who is so busy right now, with your company, you're involved in a major transformation of your company, one that involves changing direction to some extent, selling a lot of assets, something that’s obviously your primary responsibility.  But I’m just wondering, does that leave you much time to think about something like energy policy?

[00:02:02]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Absolutely.  And Bill, we have been over the past two years very focused on a transformation of the company.  But if you take a step back, there’s been an equal transformation of the power industry as well.  And from significant disruptions, technology disruption – I know we talked about the shale gas and now entering, I think the 90 years of the shale gas revolution.  You have renewables.  You're seeing changes in consumer behaviors with the digitalization of all the smart appliances.

So, we’re seeing a significant transformation of the power industry.  And for us at NRG, we’re undergoing our own transformation now in the – two years in the making.  First –

[00:02:47]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah, tell us a little bit about that first.  What are you doing there?

[00:02:51]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  So, when we started on this journey a little over two years ago, I looked at what was happening in the power industry and some of the trends that we were seeing, particularly, very low commodity price environment, a lot of uncertainty around environmental regulations and the integration of renewable energy into the power grid.  And we just needed to respond to these trends in a cohesive way for the company.

I laid out a strategy that was first and foremost to simplify the value proposition of the company.  And more importantly to focus on our core businesses which is generating electricity and selling of that electricity to our customers through our retail platform.  So, first and foremost was focusing on our core business.  I had a lot of time to talk to our employees and we needed to bring everybody along.

We needed to be inclusive in what the value proposition was for NRG, for all the employees, not just for a set of one employee.  So, it was the buy-in by all - everybody inside the company.  Second was to establish a conversation with our customers and understanding what were their needs.  Some of their commercial and industrial customers have really embraced their concept of sustainability.  If we are going to be providing energy solutions to our customers, we need to understand what they're driving.

And then finally was, our investors, our shareholders.  We needed to bring them also along.  And we embark in a transformation plan.  We accelerated that transformation plan this year by working with some of our investors.  We laid out a three year, three part transformation that focused on cost excellence.  Really bringing the portfolio into its optimal size and strengthening the balance sheet.

[00:05:02]

Bill Loveless:  You speak of the journey that you're – that’s underway at NRG right now, before we go any further, I’d like to know a little bit about your journey yourself.  I mean how did you get into the electric power business and what brought you there and how did you get started?

[00:05:18]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Well, it’s been a while since I became interested in energy.  I thought to go back to my college days.  I worked very closely with energy infrastructure projects in Mexico, in Mexico City as a project manager doing project management and consulting for large energy infrastructure projects.  That led me to be involved in the early 90s with the regulation of the natural gas industry.  I worked as a consultant for the Mexican FERC.

And I saw firsthand the potential benefits of competitive markets as Mexico was embracing competition in their efforts to regulate the energy industry – first the natural gas industry.  And as we know now, 15 – 17 years later, the tower and – oil and gas – oil industry.  So, as I was working with the Mexican FERC, I became just so interested in marketing and trading and the new economic paradigm for the power industry and the natural gas industry.  And I decided to join a company that back then was a natural gas clearing house which was the processor of Dynegy which later became Dynegy.

Joined their trading operation in 2004, decided to move to NRG.  Traded power and natural gas and then moved on to the corporate management world –

[00:06:55]

Bill Loveless:  Work your way up.  You would be CFO of NRG.

[00:06:59]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Yes.  I was actually COO, Chief Operating Officer for NRG for a number of years before I had the honor to now leave the company.

[00:07:09]

Bill Loveless:  This is – you're in a sector that’s undergoing a lot of changes, especially in recent years.  Earlier this year, you told journalists and analysts that the competitive power sector in the U.S. is in the period of unprecedented disruption.  What did you mean by that?

[00:07:27]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Well, if you look at what the power industry is going through right now, it’s a pretty dramatic change.  In its most basic form, the new competitive power industry was based on two things.  And these are microeconomics; a supply and a demand curve.  The supply curve was basically the cost of electricity and then demand is what the electricity that we would use at any point in time.  That would set the price of electricity.

But as we have seen now the significant disruption in technologies that we were just talking about, natural gas prices now – abundant, it’s cheap – cheaper than we ever thought it was going to be.  Renewable energy as you know have zero viable cost.  We have consumers that now can choose when to use energy and how to use energy with all the smart devices, the smart appliances that they have.  They can choose to produce something in the middle of the night as opposed to at 5 o'clock when everybody is using electricity.

So, demand is becoming smarter and more controllable.  Supply is becoming more abundant and cheaper, and in many cases with no viable cost.  So, if you think about the basics of the power industry, I mean it’s completely turning the economic principles upside down.  And as you look at that, you need to – we need to just keep up with technology.  And that's why we need so urgently a market reform that is just keeping up with the technology.

And importantly, we’re demanding more things from the power grid.  I mean there was a time that we only wanted to make sure that we had enough generation to meet our demand.  Then it became, well, we want enough generation, but we also want reliable generation.  Then we want --

[00:09:26]

Bill Loveless:  [Crosstalk] [00:09:25] wanted reliable, right?

[00:09:27]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Yes, well – but, the level of reliability, I think has taken a different definition when you are now in the – when everything is on the cloud in reliability, perhaps 99.99999% which is the objective of the power industry is not enough.  You need to be 100% reliable all the time because people are now relying on the cloud to make decisions.  But then, there is a new concept that people are talking about which is resiliency.  Okay so now the grid – we’re asking attributes from the grid that perhaps a few years ago were not asking for that.

And we need to make sure that we need to accommodate all those attributes in the most effective way.  I cannot think of any other business model that will achieve that than the competitive marketplace.  I mean if you think about a competitive power system, it attracts capital.  It incentivizes innovation.  But more importantly, it has the consumer at the center.  It has the consumer at the center.  And that’s why when we’re thinking about how do we create additional options, why do we create additional choices for consumers.  We have to embrace the competitive market as a way of doing that.

[00:10:48]

Bill Loveless:  But it’s been years since the Congress stepped in and passed laws that had a substantial impact on the shape of the electric power industry in the United States now thinking back to the 1978 Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act and the 1992 Energy Policy Act and these were laws that really gave rise to the competitive markets as we know them today and the regulation that we have in much of the country, not all of the country, but much of the country.  It gave rise to companies like NRG.  Is it time for congress to take another look at this market?

[00:11:26]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I think it’s very important that Congress takes another look now to respond to the technological changes that we’re all facing.  It is very important that in a time of significant disruption, significant transformation, we don’t fall back to the models that we know that – and we know that they're suboptimal.  We need to embrace the new models.  We need to embrace competition. It works for every other industry in America.  Why wouldn’t it work for the power industry?

So, instead of retreating, falling back and perhaps looking at ways that are suboptimal, like out of market subsidies that are other thing that we are seeing and now we’re in markets today to ensure that we keep some of the attributes in the grid, why not embrace competition.  Define those attributes and let the market choose what's the most optimal, what's the most efficient one.

[00:12:29]

Bill Loveless:  But we have two types of electric power systems in this country today, right.  We have the deregulated model that’s prevalent, say in the north east and Texas for example.  And then we have the regular – the old fashioned regulated power, right, that you see in the south east portion of the United States.  It just seems like it’s a recipe for disaster when you're talking about coming up with a sensible competitive system on a national basis, or is it?

[00:12:57]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I think you said it.  I mean there are two models that have worked.  The regulated model and the utility model or the competitive model.  The one that we know that doesn’t work is one that is a combination of the two, a hybrid model.  When you start putting elements of a regulated model inside a competitive model, I think that’s a recipe for disaster.  So, I would think that in this moment in time, we have these two business models that have proven that work.

At NRG, we believe that the competitive power model is the most effective way to provide, to maximize consumer benefits and to not only create competition, create innovation, but importantly attract capital.  So, the risk is not in rate payers.  The risk is in companies that want to take that risk.  I mean there are so many benefits on why we chose a competitive model for the power industry in many states.  We just need to remember what they are particularly in this time of significant change.

[00:14:13]

Bill Loveless:  Right.  Congress doesn’t do much these days in terms of legislating on energy or most other topics.  But the Trump administration under – with Secretary Perry at the Department of Energy of course has a proposal to look at a reform of the power markets.  And it’s one that he’s asked the federal energy regulatory commission as you know to come up with a remedy that would compensate nuclear and coal power plants in ways that would keep them operating.

Essentially, he’s looking for plants that would have 90 days of fuel supply on hand at all time and that they would be compensated for doing that.  NRG as I understand it agrees on the need for reforms; in fact, you just said that, but disagrees over this particular proposal.  Why?

[00:15:10]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  First and foremost is – I think is – I applaud the call to action that the administration gave to the FERC.  It is important and this call to action, what is important is the urgency of this call to action.  It’s necessary that we make a market reform today.  Now, we agree with the call to action – we agree that generators need to be compensated for all the services that they provide to the grid.

And we know that those services are changing.  We just aren’t – attributes are changing on the grid – reliability, resiliency, all the attributes.  But we disagree with the form – having out of market subsidies for existing uneconomic generation whether that is nuclear or coal or other fuel type.  We don’t think it’s in the best interest of consumers.  It doesn’t provide the most optimal solution for consumers.  We want to create a level playing field where all the companies can participate and compete to provide those attributes that we want the grid to give us.

And because that’s going to create the innovation, that’s going to bring the capitals, that’s going to create the competitive tension that we need to ensure the maximum benefits for consumers.

[00:16:40]

Bill Loveless:  Right.  The administration or some of the administration would argue and have argued that the prior administration, the Obama administration sort of put their thumb on the scale in favor of renewable energy back in the past and this in effect, as a way of compensating, balancing the market.

[00:17:00]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Yes.  I don’t think you can – first of all, I don’t think there is – it’s a good solution to solve subsidies with more subsidies.  I think you need to think about what are the attributes that we want on the grid.  And not only at a federal level, but the states – different states have different objectives.  Some states may want to have more renewable energy.  Other states may want to have – decarbonize their economy faster than others.

Every state is now having different policies, very different objectives.  What we need to make sure is how do we incorporate those state specific goals and objectives within the competitive market without disrupting the competitive market.

[00:17:48]

Bill Loveless:  That’s what I’m going to do.  And I should mention by the way that as we speak, no final decision has come from FERC on this proposal by DOE.  But what's the solution?

[00:17:59]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  We need to find market based solutions.  That’s what we need to do.  I mean, the first – there’s one example in the Pennsylvania Jersey and Maryland – PJM independent system operator where there are very concrete changes to how the wholesale market operates that compensates some generators for the services that they provide.  I think that’s what we need to do.  When we talk about renewable energy credits, we basically open it to everybody to compete, whether it’s solar, wind or in this case, it’s only renewable energy.

But if there was something that – the objective was to decarbonize the economy, we will look at all forms of generation that has zero emissions.  But they all have to compete on the same level basis.  And you cannot discriminate one fuel over another one.  Your resiliency is now one of the attributes that we want and you just mentioned 90 days of inventory.  Let’s define what resiliency means for the power grid and then let’s have generators like us, competitive generators provide solutions.

Not everything has to come down to coal generation or nuclear generation that has 90 days of supply.  Perhaps, a gas generator with dual fuel can provide that.  Perhaps some other form of generation with paired – if you start pairing generation, maybe the most optimal solution, we don’t know.  But if we don’t create a platform, the competitive platform, we’re just singling out the winning technology without having an opportunity to see what else is out there.

[00:19:47]

Bill Loveless:  Yeah.  I was speaking with former energy Secretary Ernie Moniz recently on this podcast and we were discussing the same topic and he made the point that – he said, you know, we need to stop talking about base load power, at least being so focused on base load power.  He said, the grid is changing.  And there’s a different resiliency.  These things do take on a different meaning.  I think that’s what you're suggesting.

[00:20:12]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Yes.  So, resiliency and everybody is focused on fuel certainty as a resiliency.  I actually think of resiliency in two buckets.  One, certainty of fuel – fuel certainty.  But the other one is power deliverability – location value of generation assets is equally important.  I want to make sure that we have electricity where we need it.  It doesn’t make any – it makes a difference when the generation of asset is hundreds of miles away from where you needed it.

And then in the middle, you have a transmission line that is exposed to many other risks.  I mean I immediately think of California with the wild fires.  If we want to bring all this generation to low pockets and there is a risk of fires, well, the power deliverability decreases.  So, it’s not just fuel certainty.  We need to think about resiliency in a much broader way.

[00:21:13]

Bill Loveless:  Right. You mentioned your concerns over subsidies for any particular form of energy.  I imagine it’s for that same reason your company has troubles with some of the policies adopted by states – in New York, Illinois, Connecticut now to save nuclear plants that otherwise would be going out of business.

[00:21:33]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  We have an issue with out of market subsidies for any form of uneconomic generation in the case of New York and other states that have basically provided a subsidy at the expense of consumers to keep on economic generation, in this case nuclear generation which should be leading the system and give way to cheaper form of generation whether it’s natural gas or whether it is renewable energy, that it’s going to – their life expectancy is much longer and the benefits perhaps are different and much more consistent with what the ultimate goal of the state is as opposed to having a short term solution that is going to cost hundreds of millions of dollars to consumers, if not billions of dollars to consumers.

[00:22:26]

Bill Loveless:  Right.  It’s been – and the other states are considering these very same policies right now.  It seems as though the states – once again states are the ones that are – whose policies and decisions may drive markets.  And we certainly see that in the case of California which has done so much on the environmental front.  We see that in New York now where they have a very ambitious plan for renewable energy and clean energy.  And at the same time, we see some of these nuclear issues coming up as well.  But states often fill a gap if the federal government isn’t doing much. 

[00:23:03]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  You start having contradictory signals.  So, in the case of New York, I mean you want to have renewable energy and distribute that energy solutions.  And at the same time, you're handing hundreds of millions of dollars on subsidies that do exactly the opposite of attracting capital for renewable energy.  I mean if you know that you're going to have a nuclear generator that is uneconomic, that shouldn’t be there, and is going to have an impact on competitive markets, then what you're doing is, you're just responding a subsidy with another subsidy.

And at the end of the day I’ll tell you who is going to pay the bill.  It’s going to be the consumer.

[00:23:39]

Bill Loveless:  Right.

[00:23:41]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  And that's what we’re trying to avoid by embracing competitive markets.  It’s how do we – how do we bring the most cost effective solution to consumers.  How do we bring them more options, more choices so they can determine what is the best path forward.  They can have competitive forces and the market place determines the most cost effective way – how to achieve their specific awesome objectives.

[00:24:08]

Bill Loveless:  NRG has committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 50% by 2030 and 90% by 2050 compared to 2014 levels.  How is that going?

[00:24:19]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  We are ahead of plan.  Over the past two years, we’ve made significant progress in our carbon reduction.  This is something that as a company, we believe in climate change.  We know that we have a compromise not only as a company, but as an industry to continue providing the services that we provide which is safely providing electricity in a more reliable and cleaner way.  That is our commitment.  We have to do – we have to offer a product that is better and cheaper.

So, when we set out these goals for the company, to hold that commitment, we have to continue providing you the service without compromising reliability, without compromising the safety of our employees in our plants.  But we’ve got to do it in a way that is more sustainable.

[00:25:11]

Bill Loveless:  What drives that commitment?

[00:25:13]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I mean the commitment is driven by the impact that climate change has in society.  I mean I can't –

[00:25:20]

Bill Loveless:  Is it investors – is it your customers, who is really demanding?

[00:25:28]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I think it’s all of the above.  I think it’s employees.  It’s customers and it’s investors.  Employees want a company that has a purpose beyond – much more – beyond what we can accomplish as a company in providing electricity.  We need to think much bigger than that.  We need to think about changing how we provide electricity to consumers.  In the case of our customers, they believe in climate change.  They are trying to connect with their own customers.

And many of our clients – many of our customers want to embrace renewable energy because they want to make a connection with the customers because their customers are demanding it.  And our investors, they want to have a company that is more sustainable.  And understanding the climate change, understanding the risk of climate change allows us to respond in a more proactive way on the risk that – in an economy that is significantly carbon constraint, how can we achieve success, operational success, financial success?

[00:26:45]

Bill Loveless:  And deal with the risk too, right?

[00:26:47]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Exactly.  You have to deal with the risk of climate change –

[00:26:50]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  That’s a risk now, isn’t it?  I mean the one that you take into consideration that much more as you plan ahead?

[00:26:56]

Bill Loveless:  Well, I mean we take into consideration – we’ve taken that into consideration for a number of years.  Since we – that’s why we went out with our carbon goals because we need to understand – we understand the implications of not being – of not having a path, of not having a strategic plan to deal with these potential – with these risks.  That’s what we’re – that’s why we put out our goals.  We are on track to achieve them.  And it informs all the strategic decision that we make.

[00:27:34]

Bill Loveless:  So, the position that you’ve taken or NRG has taken and many of your peers have taken in the power sector as well as other pots of corporate America are very much at odds with the position taken by the trump administration on climate – the administrations pulled out of the Paris Climate Agreement has reversed many of the environmental objectives of the previous administration.  I mean what do you make of that – do you see a contradiction there?

[00:27:59]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I think climate change to a sense – political parties, governments – I think climate change now has been embraced by society as a whole.  There is scientific evidence that exists.  And you are seeing – and it all is driven by people.  And people drive states and people drive companies.  So, I think it has presented beyond specific legislations.  You have companies that now have embraced renewable energy as a way to combat climate change – reduce their total consumption.  You have a stage that have very specific mandates in terms of renewable portfolio standards.

I mean certainly a federal policy is a catalyst to accelerate the reduction in greenhouse emissions.  I mean there is a lot that is happening now even without federal policy.

[00:29:08]

Bill Loveless:  Do you worry at all that the lack of policy in Washington now might be an impediment?  In fact, as a country we might not need – we may not reduce emissions enough to avoid the catastrophe?

[00:29:25]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I mean I think it may slow it down.  But I think ultimately we’re seeing some of our customers, large commercial and industrial customers saying, we want 50% renewable energy, we want 100% renewable energy.  We want to adopt more sustainable principles when it comes to energy consumption, whether it’s energy efficiency or load sharing or shifting the usage.  So, I actually think that – I mean it may slow it down.

But I don’t think it’s going to stop what has already become a consorted effort by many companies and by a lot of constituent that are pushing their state governments to do – to deal with climate in a very decisive way.

[00:30:13]

Bill Loveless:  Right.  Do you think coal can make a comeback?

[00:30:17]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I mean I think we – today we have – we need all forms of generation, including coal, natural gas, in some cases oil, nuclear, renewable.  But what need to make sure is if coal – we actually focus on carbon capture and sequestration as a way to mitigate this risk in our coal generation fleet.  We have the largest carbon capture and sequestration project in America.

[00:30:44]

Bill Loveless:  Petra Nova.

[00:30:45]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Petra Nova, in Texas.  And the way we did it is because there is not a price on carbon.  We actually had to be a little more ingenious around how to deal with that.  And we take the carbon from our coal plant.  We send it to an oil field, we sequester it and then we produce oil and then we sell that oil.  Instead of having a price on carbon, we went to producing oil and selling it.

[00:31:15]

Bill Loveless:  Is that a model though do you think for wide spread use of carbon capture in the United States because it seems to work where you have enhanced oil recovery as an option [crosstalk] [00:31:23]?

[00:31:25]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I think it’s a start.  It allowed us to really understand the technology around carbon capture which is the first stage.  And household recovery has been done for many, many years.  But the carbon capture part of the project, this is the first of our kind in terms of it’s scale and scope.  So, we had a lot of lessons learned on that project, invaluable lessons learned.  So, if we go to another project, it will cost us cheaper.  And if there is a price on carbon, perhaps we don’t need enhanced recovery.

But let’s not forget that while carbon capture is being focused on coal, at some point it will be a focus on natural gas.  I mean still, natural gas produces half of the carbon emissions that coal produces.  So, carbon capture is not a – I just want to make sure that people don’t have the impression that carbon capture is just a coal issue.  It is an issue that we need to be thinking about particularly when we have such an abundant cheap domestic fuel in natural gas that’s going to be – is going to be the primary source of electricity generation perhaps for many years or decades to come.  So, we need to figure out a way to capture the carbon.

[00:32:44]

Bill Loveless:  And you mentioned the carbon tax or price on carbon rather, it’s something that congress would have to decide on and it doesn’t seem as though Congress is going to do that any time soon, if never.  But how important would that be to the industry?

[00:32:59]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Just like we put a price on other emissions, we believe that a carbon price would be the first step to start quantifying what is the impact.  What is the impact that we put on carbon on society.  As you said, I mean it seems – today, it seems that is a long shot.  Perhaps there are other ways of internalizing the price of carbon in our economy.  We always favor whether it’s a regional carbon price which already exists in California in the west and in the east on the region AB32.

But we also have to recognize that it has to be such a – it has to be a larger region to make sure that you don’t end up with unintended consequences where there is a pricing regime in one state and the neighboring state is producing and taking advantage of that because the exchange in electricity.

[00:33:57]

Bill Loveless:  So, ideally you would like to see a carbon tax across --?

[00:34:01]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I would say carbon price.  I’m not a big carbon tax proponent.  I always think that the carbon tax, the price is exogenous or it’s – the price is set by somebody else in a corner office.  Carbon price, you basically leave it to the forces of supply and demand.  Who is in the best position to reduce carbon and you start setting the price of that.

[00:34:31]

Bill Loveless:  You can do that through cap and trade?

[00:34:33]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  You can do that through cap and trade.  You can start putting – you can ratchet down one of the limits that you want.  That is one way of doing it.  That’s – that would be our preferred path.  But it’s not just price on carbon.  I mean it has to be a more – it has to be I guess a more cohesive strategy and form of regulation and policy.

[00:35:00]

Bill Loveless:  NRG is big in Texas with Reliance and so much of your retail operation there as well as generation plants and all.  And of course, you saw Hurricane Harvey’s impact on Texas this summer.  It was devastating.  What storm ever to hit the continental U.S.?  Many believe that climate change is contributing to the severity of storms and hurricanes and raising the cause substantially.  I mean do you agree with that and do you think that enough is being done by the federal government and by industry to take this into account?

[00:35:38]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  I think the conversation around climate change is at the top of the agenda around the word, not just here in the U.S.  But I know that in many boards of corporations, climate change and the risk of climate change is something that is taken into account when people are deciding the strategy.  Other governments – I mean just look at the recent meeting on the climate change in – I mean there is an awareness of climate change throughout the world.

So, I can't – you talked about Hurricane Harvey.  It’s a direct correlation to climate change.  I think what we just need to understand is that there is a scientific evidence of climate change.  And it has a significant cost to society.  I mean it’s a question of whether we want to leave this world – how we want to leave this world to our kids, for the children.  I certainly want to leave it in a better way that I received it.  So, when we think about the potential impact of climate change in whether it’s Texas or whether it’s in other parts, it has to – I mean the conversation has already been elevated.

I think it has the level of importance than it has, whether if certain administration believes or not – doesn’t believe in that.  I think – like I said – I mean I think it has transcended the conversation of climate change.

[00:37:19]

Bill Loveless:  Well, I’m afraid that’s all the time we have for this conversation Maurizio.  But thanks for taking time to sit down with us on the Columbia Energy Exchange.

[00:37:28]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Thank you Bill.  And hopefully in the future, we can talk about competition, not just in the generation part of our business, but in retail part of our business because when we think about the number of options that consumers can have when we embrace competition in retail are significant.  I mean just look at Texas.  We were just talking about Texas.  Consumers in Texas can choose from many, many different providers.

We see a future where that can happen in the North East.  And we need to start thinking about the power industry in those terms, in generation and in retail.

[00:38:07]

Bill Loveless:  It sounds like a conversation for another day.

[00:38:09]

Maurizio Gutierrez:  Perfect.  Thank you Bill.

[00:38:12]

Bill Loveless:  And as always thanks to our listeners for tuning in.  If you have a moment, give us a rating on iTunes.  We appreciate it.  And for more insights on today’s energy issues, visit us online at energy.columbia.edu or follow us on Twitter and Facebook at ColumbiaUEnergy.  For the Columbia Energy Exchange, I’m Bill Loveless.  We’ll b back next week with another conversation.

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