|NRG ENERGY, INC. filed this Form 10-K on 03/01/2018|
In accordance with ASC 820, the Company determines the level in the fair value hierarchy within which each fair value measurement in its entirety falls, based on the lowest level input that is significant to the fair value measurement in its entirety. The fair value of the common/collective trust investments is valued at fair value which is equal to the sum of the market value of all of the fund's underlying investments. Certain common/collective trust investments have readily determinable fair value as they publish daily net asset value, or NAV, per share and are categorized as Level 2. Certain other common/collective trust investments and partnerships/joint ventures use NAV per share, or its equivalent, as a practical expedient for valuation, and thus have been removed from the fair value hierarchy table.
The following table presents the significant assumptions used to calculate NRG's benefit obligations:
The following table presents the significant assumptions used to calculate NRG's benefit expense:
NRG uses December 31 of each respective year as the measurement date for the Company's pension and other postretirement benefit plans. The Company sets the discount rate assumptions on an annual basis for each of NRG's defined benefit retirement plans as of December 31. The discount rate assumptions represent the current rate at which the associated liabilities could be effectively settled at December 31. The Company utilizes the Aon Hewitt AA Above Median, or AA-AM, yield curve to select the appropriate discount rate assumption for each retirement plan. The AA-AM yield curve is a hypothetical AA yield curve represented by a series of annualized individual spot discount rates from 6 months to 99 years. Each bond issue used to build this yield curve must be non-callable, and have an average rating of AA when averaging available Moody's Investor Services, Standard & Poor's and Fitch ratings.
NRG employs a total return investment approach, whereby a mix of equities and fixed income investments are used to maximize the long-term return of plan assets for a prudent level of risk. Risk tolerance is established through careful consideration of plan liabilities, plan funded status, and corporate financial condition. The Investment Committee reviews the asset mix periodically and as the plan assets increase in future years, the Investment Committee may examine other asset classes such as real estate or private equity. NRG employs a building block approach to determining the long-term rate of return assumption for plan assets, with proper consideration given to diversification and rebalancing. Historical markets are studied and long-term historical relationships between equities and fixed income are preserved, consistent with the widely accepted capital market principle that assets with higher volatility generate a greater return over the long run. Current factors such as inflation and interest rates are evaluated before long-term capital market assumptions are determined. Peer data and historical returns are reviewed to check for reasonableness and appropriateness.
In 2016, NRG changed the approach utilized to estimate the service cost and interest cost components of net periodic benefit cost for pension and postretirement benefit plans. Historically, the Company estimated these components by using a single weighted average discount rate derived from the yield curve used to measure the benefit obligation. The Company has elected to use a spot rate approach in the estimation of the components of benefit cost by applying specific spot rates along the yield curve to the relevant projected cash flows, as this provides a better estimate of service and interest costs. This election is considered a change in estimate and, accordingly, has been accounted for starting in 2016. This change does not affect the measurement of NRG's total benefit obligation.