Two Illinois Gas Power Plants Acquired by Public Benefit Corporation Earthrise Energy

Two Eastern Generation natural gas power plants in northeastern Illinois have been acquired by Earthrise Energy, an emerging independent power producer and “public benefit corporation” that has now amassed a 1.7-GW natural gas fleet in Illinois.

Earthrise on Sept. 6 said it acquired the 328-MW Crete (Figure 1) and 656-MW Lincoln Generating Facility from Eastern Generation, which is an ArcLight Capital Partners affiliate. Both plants operate in PJM Interconnection. Earthrise said in a statement that the plants “serve as a critical backstop to the grid operating during times of peak electricity demand and quickly provide power to the PJM regional market, which includes parts of Illinois.”

1. Crete is a 328-MW natural gas-fired, simple cycle generating facility located in Crete, Illinois. The 2002-opened facility consists of four independently dispatchable units. Crete supplies the PJM power market. Courtesy: Eastern Generation

Public Benefit Corporation–an Emerging Power Business Model?

Earthrise, which is backed by investor group Vision Ridge Partners, says that as a “public benefit corporation (PBC),” it is dedicated to the social and public good, and it will serve to operate in a responsible and sustainable manner.

PBCs are essentially incorporated entities formed to benefit the general public. Unlike “C corporations,” which work primarily to maximize shareholder value, PBCs or “B corps” are legally obligated to balance pecuniary interests, the interests of employees and customers, and the general public benefit, explains the Legal Information Institute at Cornell Law School. B corps are different from traditional corporations in that the business structure allows some profits to be directed toward beneficial endeavors without investor concern about business stability.

But unlike nonprofits, PBCs are for-profit entities, though, like non-profits, they are required to undergo auditing and assessments, and typically issue periodic reports on their pubic benefit corporations. The chief difference between a non-profit and a PBC is the ownership factor, says Rick Bell at consulting group Harvard Business Services. “There are no owners or shareholders in a non-profit company. A benefit corporation, however, does have shareholders who own the company,” he said.

Earthrise Accelerating Growth Strategy

Earthrise Energy established in 2019 is headed by CEO and AES Corp. alum Carla Tully, and Chief Operating Officer Derek Porter, who was previously with Panda Power Funds. In February 2022, it closed its first acquisition deal for a trio of natural gas plants in Illinois from Rockland Capital. The plants include the 237-MW Gibson City Energy Center, the 352-MW Shelby County Energy Center, and the 184-MW Tilton Energy plant. The three plants operate in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator.

The acquisition of the two plants (Figure 2) in PJM brings the company’s total generating capacity to 1.7 GW. However, Earthrise has said that its acquisition of gas plants in Illinois will serve to bolster renewable projects in the region. As part of an “aggressive growth strategy,” the company is developing more than 1.5 GW of renewable energy projects in Illinois.

2. Lincoln is a 656-MW natural gas-fired, simple cycle generating facility located in Manhattan, Illinois. The 2004-opened facility consists of eight independently dispatchable units and has the ability to provide black start service. Lincoln supplies the PJM power market. Courtesy: Eastern Generation

“With warmer-than-normal temperatures driving up electricity demand this summer, we’ve seen how important these plants can be in providing power to the grid. These plants enable a smart, predictable transition to a more resilient, affordable clean energy future,” said Tully.

Sonal Patel is a POWER senior associate editor (@sonalcpatel@POWERmagazine).

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