Energy storage ‘Holy Grail’ will drive ‘tremendous growth’, says NextEra CEO

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Nextera Energy’s CEO sees energy storage as one of three areas driving “tremendous growth” for the group and has said that discussions about renewables are “naturally” leading into dialogue on storage.

Jim Robo, chairman as well as chief executive of the Florida-headquartered Fortune 200 utility, which has a number of subsidiaries including the NextEra Partners yieldco, spoke at the Power & Gas Leaders Conference for analysts, hosted by Wolfe Research in New York on Tuesday.

Robo said that there had “never been a better time to be in the renewable business than today”, owing to a combination of circumstances, including improvements in technology for both wind and solar generation and broad levels of policy support such as the investment tax credit (ITC).

Outlining that the company’s long-term vision is to be the “largest and most profitable” provider of clean energy in the US, Robo referred to a “terrific first half” of the year and said NextEra Energy expected dividend payout ratio to increase from 55% at current levels to 65% by 2018.

The strategy to reach this vision would include leveraging the NextEra Partners yieldco vehicle, Robo said, as well as closing down the Cedar Bay coal-fired power plant, which is the highest emitting power station in Florida. The company has also gained approval for a project in Florida which would add high-efficiency natural gas generation and three solar plants with a combined capacity of 1,622MW.  

In building platforms to continue to drive future growth, Nextera would focus on three major areas: the natural gas pipeline business, its competitive transmission business and on energy storage, he said.

In response to questions from the audience on the last of those three, Robo said NextEra had a “good-sized team learning all there is to learn”. He also said that as many of the biggest utilities in the US are customers to the parent company or its subsidiaries, NextEra had an opportunity to greatly open out this process of education and dialogue. Further to that, the NextEra CEO said that over the next 12 months the company would be executing projects in regional storage markets of the US.

The first of those regional markets to get a mention was the frequency regulation market in the service area of regional transmission operator PJM. PJM hosts a competitive market in which providers are rewarded for being the fastest to respond to signals to adjust grid frequency. This means battery-based storage systems are to play in that process successfully due to their ability to respond much more quickly to signals to adjust grid frequency than gas peaker plants, which have traditionally been used.

For the full version of this story, visit PV Tech Storage.

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