NextEra Credits Renewable Energy for Small Carbon Footprint

NextEra Credits Renewable Energy for Small Carbon Footprint

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Yuki Yaginuma

NextEra Energy has one of the industry's smallest carbon footprints due to a steady shift to low-carbon sources since the 1990s.

The company has reduced its carbon dioxide emissions by 31 percent since 1990, the company said in its 2009 Sustainability Report. It has also taken a large bite out of its nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions by 88 percent and 87 percent, respectively.

"Our commitment to clean energy has given us a carbon dioxide emissions rate roughly 50 percent below the industry average," CEO and Chairman Lewis Hay said in the report. "To put it another way, if every power companies in the United States were as clean as NextEra Energy, the industry's CO2 emissions would be cut in half, and the country's CO2 emissions would be reduced by 20 percent. That's the equivalent of removing eight of every 10 gasoline-powered vehicles from the road."

NextEra Energy’s principal subsidiaries are NextEra Energy Resources and Florida Power & Light Company. It bills itself as the nation's top producer of renewable energy from both wind and solar, the top producer of natural gas-derived electricity, and in control of the country's third largest nuclear fleet. According to the company, more than 90 percent of its electricity comes from low- or no-emissions sources. Just 4.3 percent of its electricity comes from coal, compared to the nation's average of 45.4 percent.

At the same time, the company's annual shareholder return exceeded the industry's by 6 percentage points in 2009, and by 29 percent over five years, Hay said.

According to a chart included in the report, NextEra Energy was near the bottom of a list of 2008 CO2 emissions rates of the top 50 electric power producers in the U.S., with 646 pounds of CO2 per megawatt hours of electricity. Only five other organizations had lower rates: Entergy (575.3), New York Power Authority (259.6), U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (216.3), Exelon (122.7), and PG&E (32).

This would help the company fare well should Congress pass climate change legislation, which NextEra supports. It noted that its operations include facilities in states or regions that already have, or are implementing, climate change legislation, such as California, the Northeast and Midwest.

"In each of these states and regions, our regulatory risk from future greenhouse has reduction requirements is mitigated through our operation of primarily clean natural-gas-fired electric generating facilities, nuclear generation, and renewable generation facilities," the company said in its report.

NextEra Energy listed its Seven-Point Plan for a low-carbon economy in the report:

1. Enact climate change legislation that puts a price on carbon
2. Enact investment incentives for renewable electricity generation, coupled with a national renewable portfolio standard (RPS)
3. Expand transmission capacity significantly
4. Convert 50 percent of the nation's automobiles to plug-in vehicles by 2030
5. Adopt a robust nationwide energy efficiency campaign that strengthens standards for buildings and appliances and provides incentives for homeowners and utilities
6. Enact legislation providing substantial research and development support for carbon capture and storage
7. Build more nuclear power plants

The company also plans to convert a third of its 2,400-strong fleet to hybrids by the end of 2010. It currently operates 250 hybrids. Florida Power and Light has an overarching goal of transitioning its entire fleet to plug-in electric vehicles by 2020 as part of its joint commitment at the 2009 Clinton Global Initiative with Duke Energy.

FPL Group changed its name to NextEra earlier this year to emphasize its commitment to low-carbon energy.

Image CC licensed by Flickr user Yuki Yaginuma.