Executive MBA Class of 1993
Acciona Energy North America
The passion in Peter Duprey’s voice is palpable as he talks about renewable energy and the role his company, Acciona Energy North America, is playing by using the wind and sun as alternatives to fossil fuels. “We’re showing other companies that you can be socially responsible and create shareholder value at the same time,” says Duprey, chief executive officer and country manager of the Chicago-based company, where he has been since 2006. “These projects are profitable—and they have to be profitable, or else your business will not be sustainable. As we’re building these projects, we’re doing it in a socially responsible way. With more and more people in the world—going from 6.5 billion to 9 billion by 2050—corporations have to start taking this lead. “The United States has to diversify its energy mix and move away from a reliance on fossil fuels, which is the source of more than 75 percent of the nation’s energy,” Duprey says. “We have some great renewable resources in the United States, and we really should be exploiting those more than we are because it reduces the pricing volatility associated with fossil fuels, and it creates jobs,” he says. Acciona built and operates three wind farms in Canada and four in the United States—two in North Dakota, one in Illinois and one in Oklahoma. Outside of Las Vegas, Acciona also built the first solar thermal plant in the United States in 16 years. “It’s a 64-megawatt plant, so think of 180,000 mirrors using the sun to generate power for 14,000 homes,” Duprey says. Renewable energy is a profitable business, and Acciona is at the break-even point across all business lines in North America, Duprey says. The industry has been growing at about 25 percent per year, and he expects above-average growth rates to continue. “I believe the future for renewables is pretty bright,” Duprey says. “I think the Obama administration sees the job-creation potential out of renewables. I’ve been in the industry for about 10 years, and now there’s the greatest awareness of climate change that I’ve ever seen. It seems as if the world is getting more and more serious about it.” The public also is realizing there is a place for renewable energy in the United States: In the last two years, half of the new power plants that have been built in the country are dedicated to renewable energy, Duprey notes.
There is a lot of interest in this industry, Duprey says, pointing to the response to Acciona’s Clean Tech Leadership Program that the company launched in 2008. Acciona receives about 500 applications from students at some of the top MBA schools for just two spots available each year. “It’s a great industry; you can really get passionate about it,” Duprey notes. “And it’s a great recruiting tool. There are a lot of people who want to work in renewables because they feel like they’re giving something back to the world. They want good paychecks, but they also want to feel like they’re giving something back.”