NRG Energy is folding its large-scale renewables business back into the NRG platform, as it continues to sell off its residential solar and electric-vehicle charging businesses.
“We are focused on bringing the GreenCo process to a closure that maximizes value for our shareholders,” said Mauricio Gutierrez, NRG's recently-named CEO, in a fourth-quarter earnings call on Monday.
The announcement comes as NRG posted a total loss of $6.36 billion in the fourth quarter, with more than $5 billion in writeoffs stemming from the company’s struggling commodities business. Losses for the year totaled $6.44 billion, down from a total of $132 million in profits in 2014.
Moving Renew back into NRG from the GreenCo platform that was formed last year underscores its strategic role in the company’s diversified platform, said Gutierrez. Reintegrating the company’s commercial-scale renewable energy development arm will also serve to strengthen the company’s balance sheet.
NRG reiterated its 2016 guidance of $3 billion to $3.2 billion, which now includes the Renew division.
NRG Home Solar and eVgo, the remaining components of the GreenCo, will see a “resolution” in the second quarter. Gutierrez said the changes come in response to investor concerns that NRG’s story is too complicated and that the company is spending too much money outside of its core competency.
“I am here to tell you that simplification of our business is an imperative, both for external perception and internal focus,” he said.
Gutierrez took over as CEO in December upon the ouster of longtime CEO David Crane, who is widely recognized for attempting to transition the fossil-fuel-heavy power producer into a consumer-centric clean energy company. Gutierrez is now overseeing a comprehensive restructuring plan centered on traditional power generation and retail electricity sales, with the aim to reduce debt, streamline costs and replenish capital.
As part of that plan, NRG announced it is slashing its dividend by nearly 80 percent, from 58 cents to 12 cents per share. The change will free up $145 million per year to put toward debt reduction and to allow for more spending flexibility.
NRG has also amended its partnership agreements with NRG Yield “in order to reallocate $50 million of NRG Yield’s previously committed cash equity from the residential solar partnership to the business renewables partnership,” according to the earnings report.
Gutierrez said this arrangement reinforces NRG’s focus on renewables development, while acknowledging that “not all renewable businesses are viewed the same in terms of fit and value for NRG.”
The statement reiterates a shift away from residential distributed energy resources, as analysts predicted, as negotiations on the sale of NRG Home Solar and eVgo continue. The company’s retail division, once a part of the NRG Home umbrella alongside the company’s green businesses, continues to house the personal power products company Goal Zero.
Ahead of Monday’s earnings call, former CEO David Crane wrote that a green strategy is not an option for Gutierrez. Market expectations and board embarrassment will prevent him from reaffirming a go-green approach.
“If the conventional guy follows the same green strategy as the green guy, then why did the board change CEOs in the first place?” Crane wrote.
NRG’s new strategy will be decidedly more fossil-fuel heavy, he continued. “If green is out at NRG, then the color of its new strategy will fall somewhere within the range of 50 shades of brown,” Crane wrote.
Low commodity prices have dealt a harsh blow to NRG’s traditional generating assets. Gutierrez said the Texas market has been especially disappointing, noting that the company may have to shut down some of its coal plants unless the market corrects.
“But right now, it still is not the time,” he said. “I think the supply stack will react before we get to that point.”
NRG’s stock closed last week at $10.90 per share, down more than 50 percent from the same time last year. At the time of publication, the stock sits at $10.75 per share.