Vistra Shuttering More Coal, Adding Solar and Storage

Vistra has announced seven new renewable energy projects that will add about 1,000 MW of solar and energy storage to the company’s generation fleet. The company also said it would retire its coal-fired power plants in Illinois and Ohio as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions as it established new long-term emissions reduction targets.

Vistra on Sept. 29 launched Vistra Zero, what it called its portfolio of zero-carbon generation facilities. The venture includes six new solar energy projects, along with a battery energy storage development, all located in Texas. The company Tuesday said the new projects represent investment of about $850 million.

“The aggregate impact of these milestone initiatives is clear: Vistra’s commitment to our transformation to a low-to-no-carbon future is unequivocal and offers unique opportunities for growth and innovation,” said Curt Morgan, president and CEO of Vistra, in a statement. “As evidenced by the actions we take and investments we make, Vistra is paving its way for a sustainable future—economically and environmentally—and we’ve been focused on transitioning our generation portfolio for the benefit of the environment, our customers, our communities, our people, and our shareholders.”

Vistra said the company is accelerating its greenhouse gas emissions reduction targets, now looking to achieve a 60% reduction—up from 50%—in CO2 equivalent emissions by 2030 as compared to 2010 levels. Its new long-term objective is to have net-zero carbon emissions, up from an 80% reduction target, by 2050.

Seven Coal Plants Set to Close

The coal plant retirements include seven Luminant power plants, in which Vistra has an ownership stake of more than 6,800 MW. Luminant is a Vistra subsidiary. The plants will close between 2022 and 2027. Vistra in a news release said the plants remain “economically challenged.”

The 585-MW Edwards Power Plant in Bartonville, Illinois, is set to close by year-end 2022, as previously announced. The Illinois plants set to close in 2025 are the 1,185-MW Baldwin plant in Baldwin, and the 1,002-MW Joppa plant in Joppa, which includes 239 MW of natural gas-fired generation capacity.

The Edwards coal-fired power plant in Bartonville, Illinois, is among the plants that Vistra is closing. Courtesy: Sierra Club

Two other Illinois coal-fired plants, the 1,108-MW Kincaid facility in Kincaid, and the 615-MW Newton plant in Newton, are set to close no later than year-end 2027. Two plants in Ohio—the 1,020-MW Miami Fort Power Plant in North Bend, and the 1,300-MW Zimmer facility in Moscow—also are now scheduled to close by the end of 2027. (Editor’s note: This story has been updated to clarify the announced closing dates of the facilities.)

“Importantly, Vistra’s leadership on these issues will not impact our core mission to provide consumers with reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy while lowering emissions,” Morgan said. “Electricity is an essential resource, and the demand for it will continue to grow as climate initiatives are implemented and the economy is further electrified. So, while the way we produce electricity is changing, our essential role in the process and core mission will not.”

Vistra on Tuesday unveiled a plan in which it would convert its coal-plant sites into utility-scale solar facilities. The sites also would include battery energy storage.

“Vistra is well-positioned to not only prove our resiliency during this important transformation to cleaner generation sources, but to lead the way,” Morgan said. “Our value proposition has never been stronger, and our sustainability has never been clearer. We are confident over time that the severe under-valuation of our stock price will be recognized, and our fair value achieved.”

Renewable Energy Projects

The Texas renewable energy projects expected to come online next year include the 100-MW Andrews Solar Facility in Andrews County; the 50-MW Brightside Solar Facility in Live Oak County; the 108-MW Emerald Grove project in Crane County; and phase III of the Upton 2 Solar and Energy Storage Facility in Upton County. An additional 10 MW of solar capacity will be added to the Upton 2 project, bringing the site’s total solar power capacity to 190 MW.

New projects expected online in 2022 include the 260-MW DeCordova Energy Storage Facility in Hood County, co-located on the site of Luminant’s natural gas-fueled DeCordova Power Plant. Two other projects include the 200-MW Forest Grove Solar Facility in Henderson County, and the 200-MW Oak Hill Solar Facility in Rusk County.

Vistra said the new renewable energy projects bring the Vistra Zero portfolio to about 4,000 MW of zero-carbon assets. The company Tuesday said it “continues to evaluate additional solar and battery projects, including more than 1,000 MW in Texas, more than 1,000 MW in California, and approximately 450 MW in Illinois under the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act.”

Vistra and its subsidiaries since 2016 have closed or announced the closure of 19 coal plants with a total of more than 16,000 MW of generation capacity across Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts. In total, Vistra and its subsidiaries have retired or announced the retirement of more than 19,000 MW at 23 coal- and natural gas-fired power plants since 2010.

Darrell Proctor is associate editor for POWER (@DarrellProctor1, @POWERmagazine).

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