Newspaper article International New York Times

NRG Chief, Who Had Big Plans for Boom of Renewable Energy, Steps Down

Newspaper article International New York Times

NRG Chief, Who Had Big Plans for Boom of Renewable Energy, Steps Down

Article excerpt

The departing chief had expressed big plans to transform NRG from a conventional power producer to a new breed of green utility.

A little more than a year ago, David Crane was busy broadcasting plans to transform NRG from a conventional power producer to a new breed of green utility.

In charge of the company for more than 12 years, Mr. Crane had been investing in wind farms and buying small start-ups to help capture emerging markets like rooftop solar, electric-vehicle charging and home automation, all part of a bid, he wrote to shareholders, to become like an Amazon, Apple, Facebook or Google of electricity.

If that indeed comes to pass, he will not be there to see it.

Mr. Crane, 56, stepped down as chief executive, the company said on Thursday; Mauricio Gutierrez, who has been executive vice president and chief operating officer since 2010, will take over.

The company's stock tumbled over the last several months, a decline that went largely unabated despite a reorganization and shift in strategy announced by Mr. Crane in September.

"He clearly had a vision for the power company of the future, and wanted NRG to be that company, and took real steps toward that," said Shayle Kann, who leads GTM Research, which focuses on clean energy industries. "And then Wall Street didn't get convinced."

The move comes as utilities in the United States and abroad struggle to cope with the changing economics, policies and technologies in bringing more renewables into the power mix. In Germany, for instance, the large utility RWE, squeezed by low prices for conventional fuels, recently announced that it planned to split its renewables, retail and grid businesses into a separate entity.

At NRG, which operates a large fossil-fuel-based fleet that tends to produce steady dividends, Mr. Crane became a high-profile proponent of change, traveling extensively to gatherings with energy executives and clean-energy advocates like Bill Clinton and Richard Branson and making attention-getting commitments to reduce the company's carbon footprint.

NRG, he said, would be positioned to take advantage of the shift not only to renewable energy but also away from the traditional monopoly business model to a more decentralized power system. …

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