The regulatory environment has undergone significant changes in the last several years due to state and federal policies affecting wholesale and retail competition and the creation of incentives for the addition of large amounts of new renewable generation and, in some cases, transmission. These changes are ongoing, and the Company cannot predict the future design of the wholesale power markets or the ultimate effect that the changing regulatory environment will have on NRG's business. In addition, in some of these markets, interested parties have proposed material market design changes, including the elimination of a single clearing price mechanism, as well as proposals to re-regulate the markets or require divestiture by generating companies to reduce their market share. Other proposals to re-regulate may be made and legislative or other attention to the electric power market restructuring process may delay or reverse the deregulation process. If competitive restructuring of the electric power markets is reversed, discontinued, or delayed, the Company's business prospects and financial results could be negatively impacted. In addition, since 2010, there have been a number of reforms to the regulation of the derivatives markets, both in the United States and internationally. These regulations, and any further changes thereto, or adoption of additional regulations, including any regulations relating to position limits on futures and other derivatives or margin for derivatives, could negatively impact NRG’s ability to hedge its portfolio in an efficient, cost-effective manner by, among other things, potentially decreasing liquidity in the forward commodity and derivatives markets or limiting NRG’s ability to utilize non-cash collateral for derivatives transactions.
Government regulations providing incentives for renewable generation could change at any time and such changes may adversely impact NRG's business, revenues, margins, results of operations and cash flows.
The Company's growth strategy depends in part on government policies that support renewable generation and enhance the economic viability of owning renewable electric generation assets. Renewable generation assets currently benefit from various federal, state and local governmental incentives such as ITCs, PTCs, cash grants in lieu of ITCs, loan guarantees, RPS programs, modified accelerated cost-recovery system of depreciation and bonus depreciation. For example, in December 2015, the U.S. Congress enacted an extension of the 30% solar ITC so that projects which begin construction in 2016 through 2019 will continue to qualify for the 30% ITC. Projects beginning construction in 2020 and 2021 will be eligible for the ITC at the rates of 26% and 22%, respectively. The same legislation also extended the 10-year wind PTC for wind projects which begin construction in 2016 through 2019. Wind projects which begin construction in the years 2017, 2018 and 2019 are eligible for PTCs at 80%, 60% and 40% of the statutory rate per kWh, respectively.
Many states have adopted RPS programs mandating that a specified percentage of electricity sales come from eligible sources of renewable energy. However, the regulations that govern the RPS programs, including pricing incentives for renewable energy, or reasonableness guidelines for pricing that increase valuation compared to conventional power (such as a projected value for carbon reduction or consideration of avoided integration costs), may change. If the RPS requirements are reduced or eliminated, it could lead to fewer future power contracts or lead to lower prices for the sale of power in future power contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on the Company's future growth prospects.
Such material adverse effects may result from decreased revenues, reduced economic returns on certain project company investments, increased financing costs, and/or difficulty obtaining financing. Furthermore, the ARRA included incentives to encourage investment in the renewable energy sector, such as cash grants in lieu of ITCs, bonus depreciation and expansion of the U.S. DOE loan guarantee program. It is uncertain what loan guarantees may be made by the U.S. DOE loan guarantee program in the future. In addition, the cash grant in lieu of ITCs program only applies to facilities that commenced construction prior to December 31, 2011, which commencement date may be determined in accordance with the safe harbor if more than 5% of the total cost of the eligible property was paid or incurred by December 31, 2011.
If the Company is unable to utilize various federal, state and local government incentives to acquire additional renewable assets in the future, or the terms of such incentives are revised in a manner that is less favorable to the Company, it may suffer a material adverse effect on the business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
The integration of the Capacity Performance product into the PJM market could lead to substantial changes in capacity income and non-performance penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on NRG’s results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.
On June 9, 2015, FERC approved changes to PJM’s capacity market. Major elements of the approved changes to the Capacity Performance framework include the calculation of the bid cap, elimination of the 2.5% holdback for short lead-time resources, and substantial performance penalties on Capacity Performance resources that do not perform in real time during specific periods of high demand. The Company’s Capacity Performance resources may not perform as planned, and the Company may experience substantial changes in capacity income and non-performance penalties, which could have a material adverse effect on NRG’s results of operations, financial condition and cash flows.