Note 5 — Accounting for Derivative Instruments and Hedging Activities
ASC 815 requires NRG to recognize all derivative instruments on the balance sheet as either assets or liabilities and to measure them at fair value each reporting period unless they qualify for a NPNS exception. NRG may elect to designate certain derivatives as cash flow hedges, if certain conditions are met, and defer the effective portion of the change in fair value of the derivatives to accumulated OCI, until the hedged transactions occur and are recognized in earnings. The ineffective portion of a cash flow hedge is immediately recognized in earnings.
For derivatives designated as hedges of the fair value of assets or liabilities, the changes in fair value of both the derivative and the hedged transaction are recorded in current earnings.
For derivatives that are not designated as cash flow hedges or do not qualify for hedge accounting treatment, the changes in the fair value will be immediately recognized in earnings. Certain derivative instruments may qualify for the NPNS exception and are therefore exempt from fair value accounting treatment. ASC 815 applies to NRG's energy related commodity contracts, interest rate swaps, and equity contracts.
As the Company engages principally in the trading and marketing of its generation assets and retail businesses, some of NRG's commercial activities qualify for hedge accounting. In order for the generation assets to qualify, the physical generation and sale of electricity should be highly probable at inception of the trade and throughout the period it is held, as is the case with the Company's baseload plants. For this reason, many trades in support of NRG's baseload units normally qualify for NPNS or cash flow hedge accounting treatment, and trades in support of NRG's peaking units' asset optimization will generally not qualify for hedge accounting treatment, with any changes in fair value likely to be reflected on a mark-to-market basis in the statement of operations. Most of the retail load contracts either qualify for the NPNS exception or fail to meet the criteria for a derivative and the majority of the retail supply and fuels supply contracts are recorded under mark-to-market accounting. All of NRG's hedging and trading activities are subject to limits within the Company's Risk Management Policy.
To manage the commodity price risk associated with the Company's competitive supply activities and the price risk associated with wholesale power sales from the Company's electric generation facilities and retail power sales from NRG's retail businesses, NRG enters into a variety of derivative and non-derivative hedging instruments, utilizing the following:
Forward contracts, which commit NRG to purchase or sell energy commodities or purchase fuels in the future;
Futures contracts, which are exchange-traded standardized commitments to purchase or sell a commodity or financial instrument;
Swap agreements, which require payments to or from counterparties based upon the differential between two prices for a predetermined contractual, or notional, quantity;
Option contracts, which convey to the option holder the right but not the obligation to purchase or sell a commodity;
Extendable swaps, which include a combination of swaps and options executed simultaneously for different periods. This combination of instruments allows NRG to sell out-year volatility through call options in exchange for natural gas swaps with fixed prices in excess of the market price for natural gas at that time. The above-market swap combined with its later-year call option are priced in aggregate at market at the trade's inception; and
Weather and hurricane derivative products used to mitigate a portion of Reliant Energy's lost revenue due to weather.
The objectives for entering into derivative contracts designated as hedges include:
Fixing the price for a portion of anticipated future electricity sales that provides an acceptable return on the Company's electric generation operations;
Fixing the price of a portion of anticipated fuel purchases for the operation of the Company's power plants; and
Fixing the price of a portion of anticipated power purchases for the Company's retail sales.
NRG's trading and hedging activities are subject to limits within the Company's Risk Management Policy. These contracts are recognized on the balance sheet at fair value and changes in the fair value of these derivative financial instruments are recognized in earnings.