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Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba

Haley Zaremba is a writer and journalist based in Mexico City. She has extensive experience writing and editing environmental features, travel pieces, local news in the…

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The Next Generation Of Energy Giants Aren’t Pumping Oil

There’s a huge misconception about renewable energy that needs to be thwarted if the industry is ever to achieve its full potential. When you think about the average proponent of wind, solar, green hydrogen, and other cutting edge climate-friendly alternative energies, who comes to mind? Probably not a registered Republican who has spent his career fighting against hydropower and homeowners’ ability to install solar panels. And yet that’s exactly who is at the helm of NextEra Energy Inc., the single largest investor-owned wind and solar company in the world.  An article this week from Bloomberg profiles the rise of James Robo, CEO of NextEra Energy, a man who is everything you would think a renewable energy CEO isn’t, and who has nevertheless quietly climbed to the very top of the green energy game. “America’s Greenest Energy Giant Isn’t Trying to Save the Planet,” proclaims the headline from Bloomberg Quint. But, despite that fact, his company has made a name for itself as an “unlikely green giant with a knack for throwing its considerable weight behind initiatives and policies that are pushing the U.S. into a future of zero-emissions electricity.” And, despite the CEO’s decidedly conservative politics, “few companies appear better poised to benefit from the Joe Biden era.”

How do we square this reality with the perception of green energy as a partisan pet project of earthy, crunchy granola people? Well, we need to understand that our perception of green energy is misguided and outdated. It’s no longer an idealist environmentalist's pipe dream. Green energy makes practical, financial, fiscal sense. It’s the future and the future is now. 

Related: The Death Of U.S. Shale Has Been Greatly Exaggerated

That’s why, even though James Robo fell into renewable energy as a fluke, he’s held on tight. “Founded as an ordinary Florida utility almost a century ago, [NextEra Energy] backed into renewables by taking a stake in early wind farms whose developers owed it money,” reports Bloomberg. “Since then it has shrewdly used dealmaking, scale, tax credits, and aggressive lobbying to grow into a powerhouse—all while keeping such a low profile that most people have never heard of it.” While Robo is far from a Muskian CEO with a large twitter presence and iconoclastic ideals around climate justice, his company is, nonetheless, pushing the energy industry as a whole further into greener pastures--and it’s enjoying quite a nice profit margin while doing so. As the cost of producing renewable energy has continued to plummet in correlation with technological advances in recent years, NextEra has been raking in the dough, even under the oil-loyal Trump administration. “Despite tariffs on solar equipment from China and aggressive federal efforts to boost coal and gas, its profits rose from $2.9 billion in 2016 to $3.8 billion last year.”

NextEra Energy is just one of many renewable energy companies that are projected to see major growth in the coming years--at a time that energy stalwarts are looking at nearly unilateral decline in both demand and profits coming down the pike. In fact, even Big Oil’s supermajors are scrambling to diversify--the writing is on the wall. The global clean energy transition is underway, and it’s only going to accelerate. The Biden administration will be especially kind to these companies, as part of his platform includes “an ambitious $2 trillion proposal focused on creating a nationwide emissions-free electricity grid in just 15 years.”

Peak oil is upon us, and anyone hanging onto fossil fuels is doing so out of ideology instead of investment acumen. Yes, of course our world still runs on oil, and will continue to do so in large part for many years to come--to deny that is foolhardy. But the oil era is coming to an end, and any forward thinkers would be wise to jump ship. Letting go of that attachment to the legacy of fossil fuels is exactly what led James Robo and NextEra Energy to running an ultra-successful renewable energy company whose market value competes with that of Exxon Mobil Corp. In fact, across the board, the newest wave of energy giants are renewable energy companies, and those reluctant to accept that fact will almost certainly be left behind.

By Haley Zaremba for Oilprice.com 

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Leave a comment
  • Mamdouh Salameh on December 05 2020 said:
    The author seems to be joining the fantasies and the hallucinations of a clique of analysts, investment banks, militant environmental activists and hydrocarbon divestment campaigners about the so-called approaching peak oil demand.

    Well let me disappoint you all by suggesting that the notions of approaching peak oil, zero emissions and imminent global energy transition to renewables are not only illusions but also fads as the CEO of Brazil’s oil giant, Petrobras, recently depicted them.

    Petrobras and American supermajors ExxonMobil and Chevron have the strength of conviction and courage to admit that the global demand for oil will continue well into the future and that oil and gas will continue to be the core business of the global oil industry and the fulcrum of the global economy throughout the 21st century and probably far beyond.

    There will be no post-oil era. Therefore, forward thinkers should accept this fact and adapt themselves to it otherwise they will certainly be left behind.

    Dr Mamdouh G Salameh
    International Oil Economist
    Visiting Professor of Energy Economics at ESCP Europe Business School, London
  • Chance Menasco on December 07 2020 said:
    It’s worth noting that NextEra Energy has a very large subsidiary called Trinity that is a big natural gas driller and producer.
  • George Doolittle on December 07 2020 said:
    Great article. The other big player is of course Xcel Energy out of Minnesota...besides of course Berkshire Hathaway's massive Mid-American Energy Partners.

    It should be noted that Next Era Energy ($nee ticker symbol) which I rate as a very strong buy as I also do for Xcel Enery got so massive and profitable in such a short period of time because of the rank incompetence of $so Southern Companies and their still ongoing nuclear disaster builds starting in South Carolina which was a complete bust and their now ongoing nightmare going on at the Vogtle nightmare. Also $nee bailed on Hawaii and that junk Utility and went all in on Texas Wind...another super smart business move. I'm also a huge fan of Entergy ($etr ticker symbol?) but that is pure nuclear so might not be very popular here on this site.

    Great article on a fantastic Company with great growth prospects given the growth in solar power plus power demand for rocket launch and small scale lng in the State.

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