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Vistra to close four more Illinois coal-fired energy plants

Tuesday, Sep 29, 2020

* The company has five coal plants in Illinois and one was already on the closure list

Texas-based energy company Vistra plans to accelerate its transition to clean power generation sources and advance efforts to significantly reduce its carbon footprint. The company launched Vistra Zero, a portfolio of zero-carbon power generation facilities, which includes seven new developments — some solar, solar + storage and standalone energy storage — in its primary market of ERCOT that total nearly 1,000 MW.

In addition, Vistra established further long-term emissions reduction targets, released its first climate report and announced its intention to retire all of its generation subsidiaries’ coal plants in Illinois and Ohio. […]

Vistra also announced its next phase of coal plant closures in Illinois and Ohio. The company expects to retire seven Luminant power plants, of which the company owns a combined capacity of more than 6,800 MW, between 2022 and 2027.

Since the company’s leadership change in 2016, Vistra and its subsidiaries have closed or announced the closure of 19 coal plants totaling more than 16,000 MW across Texas, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois and Massachusetts. In total, Vistra and its subsidiaries have now retired or announced the retirement of more than 19,000 MW at 23 coal and natural gas plants since 2010.

* Crain’s

Vistra said it will retire the Baldwin and Joppa plants in southern Illinois no later than 2025, “or sooner should economic or other conditions dictate.” The Kincaid and Newton plants southeast of Springfield will close no later than 2027, again with the same caveat.

The four plants together employ about 400. […]

Under the plan, which requires action in Springfield, Vistra would convert its coal-plant sites into utility-scale solar facilities accompanied by powerful batteries that could store some of the energy when it’s not needed.

Vistra already has announced the planned closure of the Edwards plant near Peoria, which will occur by the end of 2022.

That’ll leave three Illinois coal plants owned by NRG.

* Sierra Club…

Texas based Vistra Energy announced plans today to accelerate its transition to clean energy generation by retiring all the coal plants owned by its subsidiaries in Illinois and Ohio. In a move intended to reduce the utility’s outsized climate impact, the announcement targets more than 6,211 megawatts (MW) of coal based electricity generation at six coal plants, which is equivalent to a year’s worth of carbon emissions from 10,380,659 passenger vehicles. These announced retirements mark 166,395 MW of coal capacity retired with 176,617 MW remaining in the United States.

“Vistra is the largest emitter of climate-warming carbon pollution in the US electric sector, and today they made one of the largest coal retirement announcements in US history, sending a clear signal that the transition from coal to clean energy is accelerating nationwide. Vistra’s plan to stop burning coal altogether in Illinois and Ohio is a testament to a decade of tireless work by advocates fighting for the significant public health and climate benefits that come from moving away from coal to clean energy,” said Mary Anne Hitt, National Director of Campaigns at the Sierra Club. “Supporting a fair and robust economic and community transition is a critical next step for Illinois and Ohio as lawmakers in both states are in dialogue about the future of state energy policy.”

Vistra’s announcement comes amid record low coal use in the US, as clean energy now routinely outperforms coal plants. Vistra announced plans for new solar and storage developments, primarily in Texas, prompting advocates in Illinois and Ohio to redouble calls for state level energy transition planning and policy. Vistra made no changes to its Texas coal fleet, which includes the Martin Lake coal plant; the nation’s largest source of sulfur dioxide pollution and mercury pollution. Martin Lake is the source of ongoing violations of local pollution standards.

“It’s urgent that Illinois plan now to assist the workers and communities that will be affected by these closures, ensure that Vistra cleans up these sites, and that we build clean, renewable energy infrastructure to replace these dirty sources of power,” said Jack Darin, Director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “The Clean Energy Jobs Act (CEJA) is a plan for a just transition for these communities that creates jobs where they are needed most, while holding big polluters accountable for the messes they leave behind. We call on the Illinois state legislature to pass the CEJA this year, to respond to these closures proactively, and ensure a brighter future for our most impacted communities.”

In Illinois, the new retirements include the Baldwin and Joppa Power Plants by the end of 2025, and Kincaid and Newton Power Plants by 2027. The Edwards coal fired power plant near Peoria is already slated to retire by the end of 2022. In Ohio, Miami Fort Power Plant, in North Bend, and Zimmer Power Plant in Moscow, are planned to retire by 2027. The utility added that all these retirements may be sooner than the announced dates should economic or other conditions dictate.

* Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition…

Vistra’s announcement to close five coal plants around Illinois is an urgent call for Gov. Pritzker and the General Assembly to take action to help workers who face lay-offs and local plant communities that will lose significant tax revenue. This announcement leaves out that Vistra’s own proposal is little more than a corporate bailout for cutting and running that does nothing for communities like Waukegan who have a heavily polluting plant in their backyard.

In contrast, the Clean Energy Jobs Act will provide real help to these communities throughout the state by accelerating renewable energy, providing property tax replacement, securing worker benefits and training, and delivering resilient, economic futures. The Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition is ready to get to work to pass CEJA this year.”

…Adding… Congressman Rodney Davis…

“I’m deeply disappointed in Vistra’s plan to retire their Kincaid plant, which employs 115 of our friends and neighbors. The Kincaid plant has created good-paying union jobs and reliable, baseload power for households and manufacturers in Illinois and states in the Mid-Atlantic region for decades. Because the plant is a significant employer and generator of local tax revenue in Christian County, our hometowns, schools, and other public bodies will be negatively affected by this closure. Our Congressional office stands ready to support the workers and communities impacted.

“I have always been an advocate for an all-of-the-above energy portfolio, but I am becoming increasingly concerned about the planned nuclear, coal, and gas plant closures across Illinois in the coming years. Our state cannot continue to be a leading net electricity exporter if this trend continues. Additional plant closures will put thousands of good-paying union jobs and reliable, affordable power at risk. I’m committed to making sure American energy policy supports a diverse, reliable, and affordable array of baseload energy sources. American families need certainty that when they flip a switch, they will have access to low-cost, reliable electricity. We can’t let America’s energy future look like California brownouts and blackouts, but the Green New Deal and other far-fetched, left-wing environmental proposals are moving us closer to that sad reality.”

…Adding… Nikki Budzinski, executive director of Climate Jobs Illinois…

As Springfield debates new energy legislation, the final bill must include meaningful policies that support the workers, families and communities affected by Illinois’ transition to clean energy. That means providing workers lost wages and benefits, meaningful job support and apprenticeship opportunities, and replacing the lost tax base in these communities. Climate Jobs Illinois will be an advocate for these issues to ensure workers are not left behind in the state’s move to a clean energy future.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

14 Comments
  1. - don the legend - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 3:30 pm:

    The Trumpster promised to save the coal industry in 2016. Perhaps he can promise to save it again in tonight’s debate.


  2. - Benjamin - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 3:42 pm:

    Good riddance. Love the idea of converting the sites to utility grade solar.

    It’ll be tough for those 400 workers, but better to pay to find them new jobs than to let them keep their old ones, pumping out soot and CO2.


  3. - Top of the State - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 3:43 pm:

    We are not there yet with renewables. CA still imports 25% of its power from hydro in NW and coal/gas in the SW. And this was one of the problems with intermittent power when they had the wildfires. IL needs to be ready for clean energy and not follow the CA model.


  4. - BYE BYE - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 3:52 pm:

    one could wonder if the hearing in the house that is happening today -had something to do with your decision


  5. - Nobody Sent - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 3:57 pm:

    Does Rodney Davis acknowledge human caused climate change? Just asking. I’m guessing no.


  6. - Candy Dogood - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 3:58 pm:

    Good riddance to rent seekers.


  7. - Downstate - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 4:22 pm:

    I believe the Newton plant generates 50% of the property taxes for their county of Jasper.


  8. - Last Bull Moose - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 4:22 pm:

    Does coal shutting down help nuclear survive longer? Energy production is fractured and interdependent. ICC used to have a role in system planning. Not sure what happens now.

    I know and accept that coal is going away. A lot of memories are connected to coal. In another life I marketed power plants. My dad grew up during the mine wars in southern Illinois. Coal was never all good, but it helped us get where we are.

    Glad it is going away, but I miss it.


  9. - Jocko - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 4:49 pm:

    ==thousands of good-paying union jobs and reliable, affordable power at risk.==

    At what cost…given that we are a net energy exporter? Are those coal ash ponds going to maintain themselves (at no risk to the public) forever?


  10. - Top of the State - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 5:23 pm:

    CA wildfire emissions this summer are equal to 100 years of power plant emissions. The Sierra Club fails to mention other sources. And the ash diminishes the output from solar panels. IL needs to work on new transmission lines to access the energy market in other states.


  11. - Mr. Illinois - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 5:43 pm:

    Wondering which “far-fetched, left-wing proposal” forced this Texas company to close their coal plants. Did Trump, Pelosi, and McConnell change their minds about the Green New Deal, or did Texas pass its own version? Davis has no respect for his voters’ intelligence.


  12. - DownSouth - Tuesday, Sep 29, 20 @ 6:06 pm:

    Baldwin’s closure has some really severe implications for Randolph county - I am waiting see how IDNR will handle the Baldwin closure - much of the property is interwoven with DNR ground, and no denying what a recreational spot Baldwin Lake is.


  13. - Milkman - Wednesday, Sep 30, 20 @ 1:11 am:

    Apparently nobody was watching what happened to California in their rush to go mostly solar and wind. Nightly brown or blackout. Now they are going to stop all sales of gas vehicles by 2035. Hope they plan a little better about where all the power to charge all those new electric vehicles will be coming from


  14. - Ill-Annoyed - Thursday, Oct 1, 20 @ 11:35 am:

    These coal plants aren’t only bad for the environment, they are losing money. Several generators are being shut down in Springfield in the coming years because it costs more money to generate power than can be purchased off of the grid. Vistra doesn’t care about the environment or the job losses. It is a business decision. Blaming “the left” is absurd.
    To DownSouth’s comment - For many of the cooling lakes associated with power plants, IDNR is already solely responsible for lake management. The plants paid to acquire the land and dam up the creeks and rivers and then graciously donated the lakes to the state to maintain. The only change for the lakes will be a reduction in thermal pollution.


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