Item 7 — Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations
The discussion and analysis below has been organized as follows:
Executive Summary, including the business environment in which NRG operates, how regulation, weather, competition and other factors affect the business, and significant events that are important to understanding the results of operations and financial condition for the 2015 period;
Results of operations, including an explanation of significant differences between the periods in the specific line items of NRG's Consolidated Statements of Operations;
Financial condition addressing credit ratings, liquidity position, sources and uses of cash, capital resources and requirements, commitments, and off-balance sheet arrangements; and
Critical accounting policies which are most important to both the portrayal of the Company's financial condition and results of operations, and which require management's most difficult, subjective or complex judgment.
As you read this discussion and analysis, refer to NRG's Consolidated Statements of Operations to this Form 10-K, which presents the results of the Company's operations for the years ended December 31, 2015, 2014, and 2013, and also refer to Item 1 to this Form 10-K for more detailed discussion about the Company's business.
NRG Energy, Inc., or NRG or the Company, is an integrated competitive power company, which produces, sells and delivers energy and energy products and services in major competitive power markets in the U.S. while positioning itself as a leader in the way residential, industrial and commercial consumers think about and use energy products and services. NRG has one of the nation's largest and most diverse competitive generation portfolios balanced with the nation's largest competitive retail energy business. The Company owns and operates approximately 50,000 MW of generation; engages in the trading of wholesale energy, capacity and related products; transacts in and trades fuel and transportation services; and directly sells energy, services, and innovative, sustainable products and services to retail customers under the names “NRG”, "Reliant" and other retail brand names owned by NRG.
The industry dynamics and external influences affecting the Company and its businesses, and the power generation and retail energy industry in general in 2015 and for the future medium term include:
Capacity Markets — Capacity markets are a major source of revenue for the Company. Centralized capacity markets exist in ISO-NE, MISO, NYISO and PJM. Bilateral markets exist in CAISO and MISO. These auctions are either an annual market held three years ahead of the delivery period as in the case of PJM and ISO-NE, or six months to one month ahead as in the case of NYISO. Many variables affect the prices derived in these auctions. These variables include the load forecast, the target reserve margin, rules surrounding demand response, capacity performance penalties, capacity imports and exports from the region, new generation entrants, slope of the demand curve, generation retirements, the cost of retrofitting old generation to meet new environmental rules, expected profitability of the plant itself in the energy market and various other auction rules. In theory, a high capacity price should be an indication that the ISO doesn't have sufficient generation capacity against its needed reserve margin and new construction should enter the market. Similarly, a low capacity price suggests the market is over-built and units should retire. The Company has seen many swings in the pricing for capacity markets and the rules in many of the markets are undergoing significant changes, as discussed in this Management's Discussion and Analysis of Financial Condition and Results of Operations. In addition, PJM integrated a new capacity performance construct into the market in 2015, as described in Item 1 — Business, Regulatory Matters.
Commodities Markets — The price of natural gas plays an important role in setting the price of electricity in many of the regions where NRG operates power plants. Natural gas prices are driven by variables including demand from the industrial, residential, and electric sectors, productivity across natural gas supply basins, costs of natural gas production, changes in pipeline infrastructure, and the financial and hedging profile of natural gas consumers and producers. In 2015, average natural gas prices at Henry Hub were 40% lower than 2014.