NextEra Energy plans to double its own renewable energy portfolio and could develop up to 42 GW of commissioned renewable energy and storage projects for non-utility customers by 2026, company leaders announced during a Wednesday morning earnings call.
In addition to growing demand for wind and solar, the Inflation Reduction Act has created a market for renewable energy to power green hydrogen projects that NextEra Energy is poised to capture, according to CEO John Ketchum.
However, the optimistic picture painted by NextEra Energy executives was overshadowed by news that Florida Power & Light CEO Eric Silagy will step down, spurring questions from analysts about allegations that the company violated state and federal campaign finance laws.
NextEra Energy’s leaders may believe the company’s future as a renewable energy leader looks brighter than ever, but analysts last week after Silagy’s retirement announcement raised the specter of his connections to alleged campaign finance violations.
Ketchum reassured investors during Wednesday’s call that an internal investigation into reports of state and federal campaign finance violation allegations determined that Florida Power & Light is unlikely to be found liable for the alleged contributions. He also said the company plans to ask the Federal Election Commission to dismiss a complaint filed against the company in October 2022.
Silagy’s retirement, Ketchum said, was not directly related to the allegations or the company’s investigation. Both Silagay and Ketchum told analysts who inquired about the departure during the call that Silagy’s decision was the result of burnout from dealing with repeated hurricanes, inflationary pressures, and the campaign finance allegations.
“With the transition of leadership last year, I gave a commitment that I would be here at least a year,” Silagy said. “This is the kind of job that you have to plan ahead, and we’re getting ready to go into another rate case cycle...going forward longer means committing to 2026. John touched on the challenges but this is a 24-hour-a-day job.”
Armando Pimentel, who has previously worked as CFO of Florida Power & Light and CEO of NextEra Energy Resource, will succeed Silagy.
In addition to Silagy’s retirement, NextEra Energy announced on Wednesday plans to build 800 MW of solar generation, to be completed by 2026, in order to support “a green hydrogen-related facility in development in the central United States.” The company also plans to build its own clean hydrogen facilities, including one at the Gulf Coast Clean Energy Center that is expected to produce 140-tons-per-day of clean hydrogen, and one to be built in Arizona that is expected to produce 120-tons-per-day of clean hydrogen.
Ketchum said that previously, NextEra Energy could only take advantage of tax credits that benefited two renewable resources: wind and solar power. The IRA, he said, has not only extended and stabilized incentives for wind and solar, but also opened the door to new opportunities.
“We are particularly excited about the potential for green hydrogen and the role it will play as a solution to help commercial and industrial customers cost-effectively lower emissions,” Ketchum said. “We are building the algorithms and tools to identify and optimize the best green hydrogen sites around the country and leverage our significant interconnection and land inventory positions. We are using the skills and capabilities that we have developed over the decades that we have led the renewables industry to participate in emerging clean hydrogen markets in a big way.”
Beyond their direct involvement, Ketchum said other would-be green hydrogen producers are on the hunt for renewable energy projects that can power their prospective facilities. This is driving even greater interest in renewable energy development, leading to new projections that NextEra Energy Resources could build up to 42 GW of new renewable generation and storage between 2023 and 2026.