NRG CEO: 'Fear of China is overblown'

alternative energy NRG david craneNRG CEO, David Crane, says that when it comes to alternative power the U.S. can still compete with China. After Japan's nuclear disaster NRG's nuclear expansion plans in south Texas are on hold. By Octavio Blanco, online editor


LAGUNA NIGUEL, Calif. (CNNMoney) -- When it comes to alternative power, NRG CEO David Crane is pumped about solar energy and, despite the naysayers, believes the U.S. can still compete with China.

"Fear of China in the energy space is overblown," Crane said at Fortune's Brainstorm Green conference. "We haven't lost that battle yet."

Crane pointed to the burgeoning electric car and solar markets as things that could make the U.S. more competitive against Chinese companies. He said the price of photovoltaic cells, used to create solar power, is falling and sees the electric car industry hitting full stride in 2012.

He said that production costs, especially transportation costs, would eventually force companies to bring new alternative energy manufacturing to the U.S.

"Between solar and electric vehicles I don't think the Chinese can keep up," Crane said.

China recently overtook the United States as the top country for renewable energy investment. Many experts in the industry fear the United States is being left behind in the clean energy race.

On the Japanese nuclear disaster:

The ongoing disaster is making it challenging to seek investments for nuclear power projects, Crane said.

Japan's TEPCO utility, which owns the distressed Fukushima plant, was supposed to be one of the main investors at a nuclear plant in south Texas that NRG (NRG, Fortune 500) wants to expand. Crane said the project is currently at a standstill.

"TEPCO was going to be a major investor, but at this time you aren't going to Japan asking, 'what about our project?'"

But Crane thinks the tragedy in Japan isn't the death knell for nuclear energy. Although the current perception in the U.S. is that nuclear power is dangerous, often American opinion can change quickly.

"I thought that the deep water spill would have a big impact on [public support for more] drilling," he said. "But it seemed that lasted about a month."

On the biggest obstacle to nuclear:

"Natural gas prices are the biggest inhibitor to nuclear power, not the tragedy in Japan."

Natural gas prices have plummeted on abundant shale gas production in this country.

On a comprehensive energy policy:

"You would hope after all these disasters you'd get Congress to act," said Crane. "The only thing that will make them act is $4.50 - $5.00-a-gallon gas, and who knows what they'd do."

Check out Poppy Harlow's in depth interview from the FORTUNE Brainstorm Green conference, coming soon. To top of page

Frontline troops push for solar energy
The U.S. Marines are testing renewable energy technologies like solar to reduce costs and casualties associated with fossil fuels. Play
25 Best Places to find rich singles
Looking for Mr. or Ms. Moneybags? Hunt down the perfect mate in these wealthy cities, which are brimming with unattached professionals. More
Fun festivals: Twins to mustard to pirates!
You'll see double in Twinsburg, Ohio, and Ketchup lovers should beware in Middleton, WI. Here's some of the best and strangest town festivals. Play
Index Last Change % Change
Dow 17,804.80 26.65 0.15%
Nasdaq 4,765.38 16.98 0.36%
S&P 500 2,070.65 9.42 0.46%
Treasuries 2.18 -0.03 -1.27%
Data as of 8:04am ET
Company Price Change % Change
Bank of America Corp... 17.62 0.09 0.51%
Apple Inc 111.78 -0.87 -0.77%
General Electric Co 25.62 0.48 1.91%
Intel Corp 36.37 -0.65 -1.76%
Microsoft Corp 47.66 0.14 0.29%
Data as of Dec 19

Sections

Investors beware: These 5 global crises are likely to rattle the stock market and world economy. More

Forums in dark corners of the web sell the kinds of hacks that befell Sony. More

Unilever sued Hampton Creek over its egg-free mayonnaise spread Just Mayo. But the company behind Best Foods and Hellman's mayonnaise has now dropped the lawsuit. More

Retired union workers could see their pensions cut under a controversial new law, but many say they're not sure how they'll make ends meet if big cuts go through. More

Most stock quote data provided by BATS. Market indices are shown in real time, except for the DJIA, which is delayed by two minutes. All times are ET. Disclaimer.

Morningstar: © 2014 Morningstar, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Factset: FactSet Research Systems Inc. 2014. All rights reserved.

Chicago Mercantile Association: Certain market data is the property of Chicago Mercantile Exchange Inc. and its licensors. All rights reserved.

Dow Jones: The Dow Jones branded indices are proprietary to and are calculated, distributed and marketed by DJI Opco, a subsidiary of S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC and have been licensed for use to S&P Opco, LLC and CNN. Standard & Poor's and S&P are registered trademarks of Standard & Poor’s Financial Services LLC and Dow Jones is a registered trademark of Dow Jones Trademark Holdings LLC. All content of the Dow Jones branded indices © S&P Dow Jones Indices LLC 2014 and/or its affiliates.