Texas-based power provider Vistra will retire its entire fleet of coal plants in Illinois and Ohio by 2027 as part of its plan to reinvent itself as a renewable energy and battery company.
Together, the coal plants slated for closure account for 6.8 gigawatts of generation capacity — equal to around 15% of Illinois’ total power capacity. Five of the seven coal plants Vistra named are in Illinois.
A major power producer and retailer, Vistra had acquired several of the plants in 2018 after merging with energy company Dynegy. But like scores of other power companies before it, Vistra has struggled to make the coal plants profitable amid a surge in supply of natural gas, falling electricity prices, and newly competitive wind and solar farms. It also faced tightening environmental restrictions that would have forced onerous new investments to reign in pollutants.
The scheduled closures are only the latest in a long string of them. Since 2016 Vistra and its subsidiaries have closed or announced the closure of 19 coal plants totaling more than 16 gigawatts across Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, and Massachusetts.
Some of the earlier closures occurred because plants ran afoul of environmental rules. In November 2019 a federal judge ordered two units in Bartonville, Illinois, to close by 2022, part of a lawsuit alleging violations of the Clean Air Act, according to Bloomberg Law. And in August 2019 Vistra said it would close four plants in Illinois to meet the requirements of Illinois’ Multi-Pollutant Standard, which limits allowed emissions of sulfur dioxide and other air pollutants.
Vistra owns a large portion, but not all, of Illinois’ coal power plants. Three others are owned by power company NRG. The municipally-owned City, Water, Light and Power (CWLP) owns the Dallman Power Plant downstate. And the Southern Illinois Power Cooperative (SIPC) owns at least one coal power station. (It plans to retire the plant’s largest unit as early as this fall, according to the Southern Illinoisan.)
By the end of 2022, in a previously announced retirement, Vistra will close the Edwards Power Plant in Bartonville, Illinois. By the end of 2025, or potentially sooner should the plants become “uneconomic,” Vistra will shut its Baldwin Power Plant (1.2 gigawatts) in Baldwin, Illinois, and the Joppa Power Plant (1 gigawatts) in Joppa, Illinois.
By the end of 2027 or sooner it will close the Kincaid Power Plant (1.1 gigawatts) in Kincaid, Illinois; the Miami Fort Power Plant (1 gigawatt) in North Bend, Ohio; the Newton Power Plant (615 megawatts) in Newton, Illinois; and the Zimmer Power Plant (1.3 gigawatts) in Moscow, Ohio.
Pivot to renewables
The formerly fossil fuel-heavy Vistra also doubled-down on its recent bid to reinvent itself as a renewable energy and battery company. It unveiled seven new zero-carbon generation facilities totaling nearly one gigawatt in its main, Texas-based market.
“The aggregate impact of these milestone initiatives is clear: Vistra’s commitment to our transformation to a low-to-no-carbon future is unequivocal,” said Curt Morgan, president and CEO of Vistra.
Vistra is already developing the world’s largest battery energy storage project, the 400-megawatt Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in California. In its announcement it also unveiled a new battery storage project: the 260-megawatt DeCordova Energy Storage Facility, in Hood County, Texas.