|NRG ENERGY, INC. filed this Form 10-K on 02/29/2016|
Certain of NRG's long-term bilateral contracts result from state-mandated procurements and could be declared invalid by a court of competent jurisdiction.
A significant portion of NRG’s revenues are derived from long-term bilateral contracts with utilities that are regulated by their respective states, and have been entered into pursuant to certain state programs. Certain long-term contracts that other companies have with state-regulated utilities have been challenged in federal court and have been declared unconstitutional on the grounds that the rate for energy and capacity established by the contracts impermissibly conflicts with the rate for energy and capacity established by FERC pursuant to the FPA. To date, federal district courts in New Jersey and Maryland have struck down contracts on similar grounds, and the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the Third and Fourth Circuits, respectively, have affirmed the lower court decisions. On October 19, 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari in the Fourth Circuit case, and the Court heard oral argument on February 24, 2016. The outcome of this litigation could affect future capacity prices in PJM, as well as the legal status of the Company’s bilateral contracts with state-regulated utilities. If certain of the Company's state-mandated agreements with utilities are held to be invalid, the Company may be unable to replace such contracts, which could have a material adverse effect on the Company's business, financial condition, results of operations and cash flows.
NRG's ownership interest in a nuclear power facility subjects the Company to regulations, costs and liabilities uniquely associated with these types of facilities.
Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, or AEA, ownership and operation of STP, of which NRG indirectly owns a 44% interest, is subject to regulation by the NRC. Such regulation includes licensing, inspection, enforcement, testing, evaluation and modification of all aspects of nuclear reactor power plant design and operation, environmental and safety performance, technical and financial qualifications, decommissioning funding assurance and transfer and foreign ownership restrictions. The current facility operating licenses for STP expire on August 20, 2027 (Unit 1) and December 15, 2028 (Unit 2). STP has applied for the renewal of such licenses for a period of 20 years beyond the expirations of the current licenses. The NRC may decline to issue such renewals or may modify or otherwise condition such license renewals in a manner that results in substantial increased capital or operating costs, or that otherwise results in a material adverse effect on STP’s economics and NRG’s results of operations, financial condition or cash flows.
There are unique risks to owning and operating a nuclear power facility. These include liabilities related to the handling, treatment, storage, disposal, transport, release and use of radioactive materials, particularly with respect to spent nuclear fuel, and uncertainties regarding the ultimate, and potential exposure to, technical and financial risks associated with modifying or decommissioning a nuclear facility. The NRC could require the shutdown of the plant for safety reasons or refuse to permit restart of the unit after unplanned or planned outages. New or amended NRC safety and regulatory requirements may give rise to additional operation and maintenance costs and capital expenditures. The on-going industry response to the accident at Fukushima is an example of an external event with the potential for requiring significant increases in capital expenditures in order to comply with the yet-to-be-determined consequences of, and regulatory response to, an adverse event, such as mitigating steps that might be required after the seismic re-analysis in progress at all nuclear generating facilities. Additionally, aging equipment may require more capital expenditures to keep each of these nuclear power plants operating efficiently. This equipment is also likely to require periodic upgrading and improvement. Any unexpected failure, including failure associated with breakdowns, forced outages, or any unanticipated capital expenditures, could result in reduced profitability. STP will be obligated to continue storing spent nuclear fuel if the U.S. DOE continues to fail to meet its contractual obligations to STP made pursuant to the U.S. Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 to accept and dispose of STP's spent nuclear fuel. See also Item 1 — Regulatory Matters — Nuclear Operations - Decommissioning Trusts and Item 1 — Environmental Matters — Federal Environmental Initiatives — Nuclear Waste for further discussion. Costs associated with these risks could be substantial and could have a material adverse effect on NRG's results of operations, financial condition or cash flow to the extent not covered by the Decommissioning Trusts or recovered from ratepayers. In addition, to the extent that all or a part of STP is required by the NRC to permanently or temporarily shut down or modify its operations, or is otherwise subject to a forced outage, NRG may incur additional costs to the extent it is obligated to provide power from more expensive alternative sources — either NRG's own plants, third party generators or the ERCOT — to cover the Company's then existing forward sale obligations. Such shutdown or modification could also lead to substantial costs related to the storage and disposal of radioactive materials and spent nuclear fuel.
While STP maintains property and liability insurance for losses related to nuclear operations, there may be limitations on the amounts and types of insurance commercially available. See also Item 15 — Note 22, Commitments and Contingencies, Nuclear Insurance. An accident at STP or another nuclear facility could have a material adverse effect on NRG's financial condition, its operational results, or liquidity as losses may exceed the insurance coverage available and/or may result in the obligation to pay retrospective premium obligations.