A nationwide or regional carbon fee would allow companies to make strategic choices based on a uniform set of rules and would eliminate the need for resource- and technology-specific subsidies


Image: Vistra Energy to launch long-term CO2 emissions reduction. Photo: Courtesy of S. Hermann & F. Richter from Pixabay.

Vistra Energy (NYSE: VST) is continuing to take steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change, announcing today its long-term emissions reduction targets1:

2030:  Goal to achieve a greater than 50 percent reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions by 2030 as compared to a 2010 baseline
2050:  Long-term objective to achieve a greater than 80 percent reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions by 2050 as compared to a 2010 baseline, with aspirations of reaching net-zero carbon emissions in the same timeframe assuming necessary advancements in technology and supportive market constructs and public policy
Vistra is well on its way to achieving its 2030 CO2 equivalent emissions reduction target. Following the merger with Dynegy in April 2018, Vistra meaningfully reduced the percentage of its total generation from coal assets, and its installed capacity is now nearly 70 percent low- to no-CO2-emitting natural gas, nuclear, and renewables. Since 2010 the combined portfolio has decreased CO2 equivalent emissions by more than 31 percent, taking nearly 170 million metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions out of the air. In addition, Vistra has recently announced the anticipated retirement of approximately 2.5 GWs of coal assets in Illinois, which will further advance Vistra’s progress toward achieving its long-term emissions reduction targets by reducing CO2 equivalents an additional approximately 11 percent compared to a 2010 baseline.

Notably, achieving the 80 percent reduction in CO2 equivalent emissions and, in particular, net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 will require a combination of advancements in technology, including carbon capture solutions, as well as the alignment of public policy with clean carbon goals and the adaptation of power grids and power markets to ensure reliability in a low to net-zero carbon emissions context. In this regard, Vistra believes a national or regional, economy-wide carbon fee is the ideal public policy solution to appropriately incentivize investments in carbon-free and carbon-reducing technologies. A nationwide or regional carbon fee that is market-based and consistently applied would allow companies to make strategic choices based on a uniform set of rules and, importantly, would eliminate the need for resource- and technology-specific subsidies. For example, Vistra supports Pennsylvania joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative to incentivize investments to reduce CO2 emissions rather than subsidies in support of specific resources and technologies. Vistra also supports a dividend to return all or a significant portion of the proceeds collected to those impacted by the fee as a part of any carbon fee program.

“Vistra acknowledges our business has an environmental footprint and we must be part of the solution to combat climate change while balancing the evolution of our generation fleet with our ability to provide cost-effective and reliable power to our customers. We have already taken substantial steps to reduce our CO2 footprint via plant retirements and through billions of dollars of investments in renewables, batteries, emissions control equipment, and other energy-efficient technologies. Our company, shareholders, communities, and customers are in a position to benefit from our evolving generation fleet and new technology investments,” said Curt Morgan, Vistra’s president and chief executive officer. “The necessary, broad-based steps to approach climate change must be balanced with the other critical societal issues such as poverty and unemployment. The U.S. has a successful history of adapting to change with market-based solutions and doing so without disruption to our economic system and associated prosperity. Climate change should be no different and as a practical matter will require both adaptation and mitigation activities to address the issue in an effective, orderly, and systematic manner. With the right public policies and regulatory oversight in place, combined with a market-based, competitive economic model, Vistra believes the country can effectively progress its efforts to combat climate change. Similarly, with this supportive backdrop, we believe our company can achieve its long-term emissions reduction targets while continuing to provide reliable and affordable power to our customers and meet all of our stakeholders’ expectations.”

Vistra has already taken or announced significant steps to transition the fuel-mix and reduce the emissions profile of its generation fleet, including:

2016 – 2017: Purchased three state-of-the-art combined-cycle natural gas plants, adding more than 4 GW to the company’s generation capacity in Texas
January-February 2018: Retired ~4.2 GW of coal generation in Texas
April 2018: Closed on acquisition of Dynegy, adding ~17 GW of natural gas-fueled generation
2018: Commenced commercial operations of Upton 2 Solar and Energy Storage Facility, a 180-MW solar facility and 10-MW battery storage system located in Upton County, Texas
2019: Expected retirement of ~2 GW of coal generation in downstate Illinois to satisfy the requirements of Illinois’ revised Multi-Pollutant Standard rule
December 2020: Expected online date for Vistra’s 300-MW/1,200-MWh Moss Landing battery storage project located in Moss Landing, California
December 2022: Expected retirement of a 585 MW coal plant in downstate Illinois
Future: Expected development of a 20-MW/80-MWh battery storage project located in Oakland, California
In total, since 2010, Vistra and its predecessor companies have retired, or announced plans to retire, nearly 13 GW of fossil generation, including 14 coal generation plants and 3 natural gas generation plants.

In order to achieve its CO2 equivalent emissions reduction targets, Vistra expects its generation fleet will continue to evolve as older, more expensive technologies are replaced with investments in low- to no-carbon emissions technologies. Vistra also expects efficient natural gas fueled technologies will continue to play a key role in power generation through 2030 and beyond as the supply base transitions to a higher percentage of more intermittent renewable technologies. In fact, Vistra and other prominent industry experts believe efficient natural gas units will be critical to supplying the electricity needs of consumers as renewable penetration grows, especially through 2030, but also beyond. As a result, with its significant natural gas generation fleet and leading electric and natural gas retail business, Vistra believes it is well positioned for the climate change transition. Moreover, Vistra expects it will find attractive opportunities to participate in the transition by deploying a portion of its projected strong cash flows into new technologies, similar to the solar and battery investments it has recently made at its sites in Upton County, Texas and Moss Landing, California. Any such future investments should enable Vistra to maintain its strong financial position as the power generation space continues to evolve.

As further evidence of the commitment to place climate change as a high priority for the Company, Vistra is pleased to announce its recent governance enhancements formalizing the oversight of its sustainability program. In July the company named a chief sustainability officer, Molly Sorg, who will continue to serve in her role as vice president of investor relations and will also oversee Vistra’s strategic efforts regarding our environmental, social, and governance activities. In addition, the board of directors has expanded the responsibility of the risk committee to include the oversight of the company’s sustainability practices and policies, including Vistra’s progress toward achieving the CO2 equivalent emissions reduction targets announced today. This committee will now be referred to as the sustainability and risk committee.

Source: Company Press Release