New renewables projects continued to fuel growth at NextEra Energy in the third quarter of 2019. The company’s pipeline of renewables and storage projects has ballooned past 12 gigawatts, executives said during Tuesday's earnings call.
That capacity is up from 11.7 gigawatts in Q2 in part due to the addition of 747 megawatts of solar and 341 megawatts of storage. So far in 2019, more than half of the solar projects added will be paired with storage “as customers are increasingly interested in a near-firm low-cost renewable product," CFO Rebecca Kujawa said.
NextEra has long been the largest owner of U.S. wind farms, but its solar business has grown rapidly, and according to Wood Mackenzie it is now the world's largest owner of solar capacity outside China.
Over the last several quarters NextEra has enjoyed “the best renewables development environment in our history,” Kujawa said on the earnings call.
Meanwhile, NextEra continues to invest in natural gas — on Monday the company announced the signing of an agreement for the 50-mile Lowman pipeline in Alabama and discussed plans to acquire the Meade Pipeline Company.
Though the renewable business is growing, Kujawa said the company feels “natural gas will play an important role in the country’s clean energy future."
NextEra is currently a partner on the embattled, 303-mile Mountain Valley Pipeline, which has faced significant construction delays and federal regulatory hurdles. Costs for that project have continued to tick upwards, now reaching $5.4 billion for all partners.
Kujawa said NextEra has contributed a bit more than $1 billion to that total but would be insulated from significant impacts in the event of its complete cancellation because of the company’s big balance sheet.
NextEra's portion of generation capacity from natural gas has declined from a peak of about 9.6 gigawatts in 2015 to about 7.3 gigawatts at the end of 2018 (its natural gas/oil generation remains higher, at 13.4 gigawatts) while it’s bulked up its renewables portfolio.
In announcing its Q3 results, the company said its currently on track with the construction of 10 solar sites totaling 750 megawatts in Florida, which will help reach subsidiary Florida Power & Light’s “30-by-30” goal to install 30 million solar panels by 2030. The company also plans to bring the first solar project for new subsidiary Gulf Power, which NextEra officially acquired in January, online in 2020. Earlier this month, NextEra reached a settlement in October for a 1.5-gigawatt community solar program in Florida.
On Tuesday the company also estimated its storm restoration costs from Hurricane Dorian, which made landfall in Florida in early September, at $274 million. Due to Florida’s recently passed legislation on Public Utility Storm Protection Plans, FP&L and Gulf Power should soon be sinking new money into resilience preparedness.
In a June investor presentation, NextEra said undergrounding distribution laterals could cost $25 to 35 billion over 20 to 30 years, which it would be allowed to recover from ratepayers under the new law if regulators approve the utility's plan. “This represents a multi-decade opportunity and tens of billions of dollars of potential investment into our grid infrastructure,” said Kujawa on the call.
Regulators are in the process of finalizing rules for that legislation.