Vistra to shutter 4 Illinois coal plants, totaling over 2,000 MW

  • Vistra Energy will shutter four coal plants totaling more than 2,000 MW, in order to comply with changes to the Multi-Pollutant Standard (MPS) rule enacted by the Illinois Pollution Control Board in June, the company announced Wednesday.
  • The rule changes allow four of Vistra's other coal plants to continue operating, but will slash SO2 and NOx emissions from the company's fleet by 57% and 61%, respectively. Carbon dioxide emissions will also be cut by about 40%, relative to 2018 levels, though it was not specifically required by the MPS rule.
  • Vistra plans to take the plants offline by the end of the year, though it will require approval from the Midcontinent ISO and PJM Interconnection, along with certain tariff changes that must be authorized by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

Following the MPS rule changes, Vistra completed a plant-by-plant analysis that it said considered compliance with new emissions caps, plant economics, federal energy regulations and MISO market rules. Without changes to the MPS rule, however, Vistra said "the company's entire downstate fleet was at risk of near imminent retirement."

"Even though today's retirement announcements were inevitable due to the changing regulatory environment and unfavorable economic conditions in the MISO market, they are nonetheless difficult to make," Vistra President and CEO Curt Morgan said in a statement.

The closures include the 915 MW Coffeen plant, 425 MW Duck Creek plant, 434 MW Havana plant and 294 MW Hennepin plant. Looking ahead, Vistra says it supports legislation that would "provide a pathway to reinvest and repurpose its existing coal-fueled power plant sites into solar and battery energy storage facilities."

Republican lawmakers expressed their frustrations at the approximately 300 jobs lost across the facilities, in part blaming the the 2016 Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA).

"Our state government is stifling progress and this is just another example," State Rep. Mike Unes, R, said in a statement. "It's unfortunate that our former Governor and legislative leaders pushed a bill that causes the taxpayers of Illinois to subsidize other energy plants in Illinois while self-sufficient plants, like Duck Creek, are shuttered. This is the outcome that I feared when this passed in 2016." He called the closure of Duck Creek, a plant in his district "sad and infuriating."

FEJA included support for two Exelon nuclear plants that were at risk of closing, and made broad changes to the state's energy policy.

Environmental advocates cheered the announcement, but also called it a "wake up call" for the state.

"We must act now to ensure that the communities most impacted by the inevitable shift in our energy sector are supported with workers transitioning into good family sustaining jobs and the cleanup of toxic sites," Bob Jorgensen, who chairs Sierra Club's Heart of Illinois Group, said in a statement.

On the same day Vistra announced the closures, Moody's Investors Service downgraded its outlook for the entire North American coal sector, from "stable" to "negative."

"A confluence of economic, environmental and social factors also increase our concerns about the industry's longer-term demand prospects, as pressure on the industry is mounting," Moody's said in its note.

Coal's decline has been precipitous in recent years, driven by new regulations and cheaper natural gas and renewables. Moody's predicted coal-fired power could decline to just 11% of the United States' electricity by 2030 — while it was more than 25% last year and roughly 50% of the electricity supply about a decade ago.

Source: Utilitydive
Date: Aug 26, 2019