NRG may engage in trading activities, including the trading of power, fuel and emissions allowances that are not directly related to the operation of the Company's generation facilities or the management of related risks. These trading activities take place in volatile markets and some of these trades could be characterized as speculative. The Company would expect to settle these trades financially rather than through the production of power or the delivery of fuel. This trading activity may expose the Company to the risk of significant financial losses which could have a material adverse effect on its business and financial condition.
NRG may not have sufficient liquidity to hedge market risks effectively.
The Company is exposed to market risks through its power marketing business, which involves the sale of energy, capacity and related products and the purchase and sale of fuel, transmission services and emission allowances. These market risks include, among other risks, volatility arising from location and timing differences that may be associated with buying and transporting fuel, converting fuel into energy and delivering energy to a buyer.
NRG undertakes these marketing activities through agreements with various counterparties. Many of the Company's agreements with counterparties include provisions that require the Company to provide guarantees, offset of netting arrangements, letters of credit, a first lien on assets and/or cash collateral to protect the counterparties against the risk of the Company's default or insolvency. The amount of such credit support that must be provided typically is based on the difference between the price of the commodity in a given contract and the market price of the commodity. Significant movements in market prices can result in the Company being required to provide cash collateral and letters of credit in very large amounts. The effectiveness of the Company's strategy may be dependent on the amount of collateral available to enter into or maintain these contracts, and liquidity requirements may be greater than the Company anticipates or will be able to meet. Without a sufficient amount of working capital to post as collateral in support of performance guarantees or as a cash margin, the Company may not be able to manage price volatility effectively or to implement its strategy. An increase in the amount of letters of credit or cash collateral required to be provided to the Company's counterparties may negatively affect the Company's liquidity and financial condition.
Further, if any of NRG's facilities experience unplanned outages, the Company may be required to procure replacement power at spot market prices in order to fulfill contractual commitments. Without adequate liquidity to meet margin and collateral requirements, the Company may be exposed to significant losses, may miss significant opportunities, and may have increased exposure to the volatility of spot markets.
The accounting for NRG's hedging activities may increase the volatility in the Company's quarterly and annual financial results.
NRG engages in commodity-related marketing and price-risk management activities in order to financially hedge its exposure to market risk with respect to electricity sales from its generation assets, fuel utilized by those assets and emission allowances.
NRG generally attempts to balance its fixed-price physical and financial purchases and sales commitments in terms of contract volumes and the timing of performance and delivery obligations through the use of financial and physical derivative contracts. These derivatives are accounted for in accordance with the FASB, ASC 815, Derivatives and Hedging, or ASC 815, which requires the Company to record all derivatives on the balance sheet at fair value with changes in the fair value resulting from fluctuations in the underlying commodity prices immediately recognized in earnings, unless the derivative qualifies for cash flow hedge accounting treatment. Whether a derivative qualifies for cash flow hedge accounting treatment depends upon it meeting specific criteria used to determine if the cash flow hedge is and will remain appropriate for the term of the derivative. All economic hedges may not necessarily qualify for cash flow hedge accounting treatment. As a result, the Company's quarterly and annual results are subject to significant fluctuations caused by changes in market prices.
Competition in wholesale power markets may have a material adverse effect on NRG's results of operations, cash flows and the market value of its assets.
NRG has numerous competitors in all aspects of its business, and additional competitors may enter the industry. Because many of the Company's facilities are old, newer plants owned by the Company's competitors are often more efficient than NRG's aging plants, which may put some of the Company's plants at a competitive disadvantage to the extent the Company's competitors are able to consume the same or less fuel as the Company's plants consume. Over time, the Company's plants may be squeezed out of their markets or may be unable to compete with these more efficient plants.
In NRG's power marketing and commercial operations, NRG competes on the basis of its relative skills, financial position and access to capital with other providers of electric energy in the procurement of fuel and transportation services, and the sale of capacity, energy and related products. In order to compete successfully, the Company seeks to aggregate fuel supplies at competitive prices from different sources and locations and to efficiently utilize transportation services from third-party pipelines, railways and other fuel transporters and transmission services from electric utilities.