Layoffs on way as grid operator approves coal plant closures
The state’s biggest power company is moving ahead with layoffs of more than 800 workers after the Texas’ electric grid operator recently approved the shutdown of three coal-fired power plants and an associated coal mine.
In October, the state’s largest power generator, Dallas-based Vistra Energy, announced plans to shutter three power plants pending the approval of the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, the state’s grid manager. ERCOT determined that the loss of more than 4,000 megawatts of energy – enough to power hundreds of thousands of homes on a hot Texas day – would not affect the reliability of the electrical system in the areas where the plants operate.
Vistra, which recently struck a deal to acquire Houston-based power company Dynegy, said that it would shutter coal plants in Monticello, in northeast Texas; Sandow, near Austin; and Big Brown, east of Waco. ERCOT, which oversees 90 percent of the state’s grid, on Nov. 1 approved the shutdown of Monticello, a move that will cost 200 jobs.
On Nov. 6, ERCOT approved the planned shutdown of Big Brown and Sandow. The closures will kill 650 jobs at the plants and both of their mines. The Turlington mine, which supports Big Brown, was already expected to shut down by year-end.
Vistra expects to close Sandow and its mine and Monticello by mid-January, according to a notice filed last week with the Texas Workforce Commission.
While Texas is expected to have plenty of electricity to power its homes and businesses next year, the concern is whether closing coal plants in the future would destabilize a grid that increasingly relies on intermittent and often unpredictable wind and solar power.
ERCOT has the power to postpone the shutdown of power plants if the agency determines that the local transmission lines need a certain amount of power to operate.