- Dynegy this week announced plans to shutter three Illinois coal-fueled units, informing the region's grid operator that it should remove 1,835 MW from MISO Zone 4. An additional 500 MW are targeted for shutdown, and the generator said a decision will come later this year.
- Dynegy's coal closures include Units 1 and 3 at the Baldwin Power Station and Unite 2 at the Newton Power Station. All are expected to shut down operations over the next year.
- According to the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign, the closures mark a significant milestone: the retirement of more than 100,000 MW of coal-fired power plants in the United States since 2010.
Sierra Club has been running its Beyond Coal campaign for six years now, and alongside tighter environmental restrictions, a move to cleaner fuels and declining power prices, the results crossed a big number this week with Dynegy's announcement.
“Because of these victories, our air is cleaner, our families are safer, and our clean energy economy is growing,” Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said in a statement. “The retirement of Illinois’ Baldwin and Newton coal units are not only a great step forward for public health in the Prairie State, it’s a clear sign that we are winning – coal plant by plant – in the effort to transition our communities away from dirty coal electricity."
Last year, Dynegy announced the 465 MW Wood River Power Station would retire in June. In total, 2,800 MW of generation from Illinois will be shuttered, about 30% of the power generation capacity in Southern Illinois, the generator said.
“This is a difficult decision, and we don’t take it lightly. For 40 years, the employees of the Baldwin and Newton Power Stations have generated reliable and affordable power for the people of Illinois,” Dynegy CEO Robert Flexon said in a statement. “The men and women of these stations, just like the Wood River employees, have proudly and professionally served and safely operated these facilities for decades while contributing greatly to their communities.”
Dynegy said according to a 2014 economic impact study by Development Strategies, the Newton and Baldwin stations combined have historically supported nearly 4,000 direct and indirect jobs and $1 billion annually in economic activity for the region. Newton is responsible for $5 million in property taxes and Baldwin pays $4.8 million each year.
According to Dynegy, competitive generating assets in MISO Zone 4, regardless of fuel type, are unable to support their operating costs in the existing market design. But MISO is limited in what it can do to fix the situation, Flexon said, because the grid operator's membership is largely represented by out-of-state utilities that benefit from the existing design.
While Dynegy looks for market fixes, environmental advocates say their fight will continue. According to the Sierra Club, the 100,000 MW of coal capacity retired in recent years will prevent more than 100,000 asthma attacks, 9,000 heart attacks and 6,000 premature deaths.
"Dynegy’s decision to phase out units at these Illinois coal-fired power plants is a signal of the profound shift that’s happening right now in America's energy landscape from coal to clean energy,” said Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Chapter of the Sierra Club. “As we transition to a clean energy economy, it is essential that we invest in the livelihoods of workers and communities historically dependent on coal, and the Sierra Club is committed to working in solidarity to maximize opportunities for the skilled workforce at the plants impacted by Dynegy’s announcement.”