Report: Illinois Can Reliably Replace Dynegy-Vistra Coal Fleet and Save Up To $14 Billion

By: NRDC.org |

All of Dynegy-Vistra’s coal fleet in Southern Illinois can be replaced without damaging the regional stability of Illinois’s electricity grid, and this replacement could save Illinois ratepayers up to $14 billion, according to a report released today by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club. The report, prepared by Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE), analyzed the electricity, customer bill, and pollution impacts of closing Dynegy-Vistra’s eight southern and central Illinois power plants. The report contradicts Dynegy-Vistra’s claim that shuttering their Illinois coal fleet would have negative impacts on the state’s power grid that would lead to power outages and consequently require a bailout from the state.

“Illinois doesn’t have to waste money on propping up old coal plants owned by a Texas-based energy company,” said Toba Pearlman, staff attorney and clean energy advocate at NRDC.  “There is clearly no need to bail out plants that simply can’t compete against cleaner and cheaper energy resources.”

The analysis shows that all of Dynegy-Vistra’s coal plants could retire by 2025, and central and southern Illinois would still have enough electricity to keep the lights on. Because Dynegy-Vistra’s coal plants are costlier and dirtier to run than almost any other energy resource, replacing the plants with wind and solar power would lead to lower electricity costs (relative to 2017), saving customers between $12 and $14 billion between 2018 and 2030.

While the costs to build wind and solar projects are plummeting, the Dynegy-Vistra coal fleet is becoming increasingly inefficient and costly to maintain plant, due in part to the average plant age of 53 years old. The report concluded that it is now cheaper to build a new wind project than to keep operating an existing coal plant; a trend seen across the Midwest

“Dynegy-Vistra has spent a lot of time and effort promoting a false narrative in which its aging coal-burning power plants are critical to Illinois’s energy future,” said Greg Wannier, staff attorney at Sierra Club. “This report proves that narrative to be false, and outlines one possible vision of a cleaner and more affordable energy future for Illinois.”

The report also shows that phasing out coal will significantly reduce emissions of particulate matter (otherwise known as soot) and other harmful pollutants like nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants can cause and worsen asthma, cancer, and heart and lung disease. Closing coal plants in southern Illinois can eliminate the majority of particulate matter pollution from the power sector in Illinois by 2030 and reduce the emission of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide by 80 to 90 percent, respectively, by 2030 compared with 2017.

The full report is found here: https://www.nrdc.org/resources/retiring-dynegy-vistras-coal-plants-cheaper-cleaner-and-reliable-energy-illinoisans

Report: Illinois Can Reliably Replace Dynegy-Vistra Coal Fleet and Save Up To $14 Billion