Ohio Power Plant Retirements Leave Nine Coal Facilities with 9,000 MW

Ohio will have nine coal-fired plants with 9,000 megawatts (MW) of generation remaining after Texas-based Vistra Energy shutters two power stations near Cincinnati in the next six years. The state will lose over 2,500 MW at the Miami Fort and W.H. Zimmer coal plants with the company's continued transition from high-carbon technologies to gas-fired and renewable sources.

W.H. Zimmer has been generating more than 1425 MW in Clermont County since 1991. Miami Fort has 1180.8 MW remaining from four coal burners built in Hamilton County from 1949 to 1971 after retiring two units in 2010 and 2015. Vistra also is closing five other coal-fired plants generating 4,500 MW in Illinois.

"The advance notice of these retirements provides us with ample time to work with our impacted employees and communities to ease the impact of the closures, including seeking the passage of the Illinois Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act," company COO Jim Burke said in a statement. "We've proven ourselves in previous, similar situations to live up to our core principles, taking care of our employees and communities. That will not change."

Vistra says coal plant closures stem from market realities in the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's (FERC) system of regional transmission organizations (RTO), which include the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) encompassing Illinois.

"These plants, especially those operating in the irreparably dysfunctional MISO market, remain economically challenged," Vistra says, noting coal retirements also reflect the major technology investments that would be required to comply with requirements of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

The company did not include similar criticisms of PJM Interconnection, the 13-state RTO encompassing Ohio.

Vistra closings are part of its graduated shift to zero- and low-carbon technologies, including 850 MW of solar generation and 700 MW of battery storage coming online over the next two years.

"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," says Vistra President and CEO Curt Morgan.

"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."

Other company resources include the 2,300 MW Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Texas.

The 4,000 MW of zero-carbon resources Vistra has planned include 450 MW in Illinois but none in Ohio.

Story originally published in The Hannah Report on October 5, 2020.  Copyright 2020 Hannah News Service, Inc.