NRG head: Cheap gas, distributed solar are permanently changing utility industry

David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy, said that of all the changes facing the electric utility industry, cheap natural gas, distributed renewable energy and deregulation are conspiring to forever change the way utilities do business.

Crane told Bloomberg Businessweek that customer adoption of distributed generation capacity, including small wind turbines and rooftop solar energy, will create a vicious cycle where more and more remove themselves from the power grid, leading utilities to raise rates on those who remain — creating even more incentive to get off the grid.

“The business model, the product delivery model that we use was developed in the 1930s. Show me another industry that’s still working like the 1930s,” Crane told Bloomberg. “I think what we’re seeing in our industry is that we need to make that jump to being more an information technology based industry, like the telephone industry did 25 years ago.”

To modernize itself, the electric power industry must empower end users to have more control over how they get their power, who they buy it from and how they use it.

As for nuclear energy, Crane said the generation technology is almost completely off the table in the U.S. as well as in France and Japan. Crane said this is unfortunate because nuclear power has the potential to do more than most other forms of power generation when it comes to addressing climate change by producing power without releasing carbon dioxide.

Crane also said he owns several electric cars, including a Nissan Leaf and a vehicle made by Tesla Motors.

NRG Energy is dual-headquartered in West Windsor Township, New Jersey, near Princeton and Houston, Texas.

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