The Illinois “Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act” is real


Blood is in the water, and coal is the chum.

On March 26, 2019, Illinois State Representative Luis Arroyo filed an amendment to House Bill 2713, the Coal to Solar and Energy Storage Act. The legislation aims to create a financial structure to keep at-risk coal plants online through 2024, while funding a build-out of solar+storage, energy efficiency, and transmission to replace the lost capacity. The legislation is strongly supported by Vistra Energy.

Just last year, a study sponsored by NRDC and Sierra Club finds that these specific old coal plants can be retired and safely replaced by solar and other resources. The study was written specifically to counter a push by Vistra Energy to gain subsidies for its old plants.

Vistra Energy and its subsidiaries own 5.5 GW of coal resources within the region noted in the legislation (MISO Zone 4), which represents 40% of the summer capacity within that region. The company is seemingly a (the?) major backer, as noted by their website and press releases supporting the document.

The power company is also a developer of some of the largest solar+storage projects in various markets – for instance, a 300 MW / 1,200 MWh energy storage facility for California, and first Texas’ largest solar facility, then its largest battery – at said solar facility.

The Vistra press release notes that the legislation will help make use of the already existing infrastructure and land at Vistra’s existing facilities. 500 MW of solar power, with no specific notes on the storage size, is suggested at the available land currently occupied by coal plants. Facilities without land for solar are to be offered a 10-year grant to install 40 to 80 MW of energy storage, taking advantage of already existing interconnection and transmission hardware.

In addition to the repurposing of existing locations, the legislation also aims to increase electricity generation from renewable sources to 800 to 1,000 GWh a year, via statewide procurement from system sizes between 20 and 80 MWac. These generation procurements will be required to include energy storage “having a storage capacity in megawatt-hours equal to or greater than the product of the electric generating capacity of the new renewable energy resource in megawatts times 0.5”. In other words, 10 MW of storage as the minimum for a 20 MW solar plant.

In the short term, the legislation is pushing for 500 MW of utility scale solar+storage to be installed by the end of 2021 or 2022.

In Arizona, a bill aimed specifically at replacing a 2.25 GW coal power has been submitted. The bill would establish a task force to provide to replace the revenue and support displaced workers.

A recent analysis by Energy Innovation shows that 74% of US coal could be replaced by wind and solar power located within 35 miles of these plants, while also saving consumers money. The analysis shows that this will increase to more than 86% by 2025.

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