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    Vistra deal 'positive news' for Beaver Valley Power Station, leaders say

    March 15, 2023 - Chrissy Suttles, Beaver County Times


      SHIPPINGPORT – Politicians praised Vistra Corp.’s plan to buy Beaver County’s enduring nuclear power station last week, optimistic new owners will offer stability after years of uncertainty.

      The Texas-based energy company has announced a merger deal to purchase Energy Harbor — owners of Beaver Valley Power Station — for $3.4 billion to expand Vistra’s carbon-free generation capacity. Energy Harbor's nuclear and retail businesses will merge with Vistra's under a newly formed subsidiary called Vistra Vision.

      Vistra Corp. — not affiliated with corporate service provider Vistra — is one of the largest competitive electricity providers and power generators in the nation. The company is based near Dallas, but has a considerable presence in Pennsylvania. One of Vistra's subsidiaries, Dynegy, does business in western Pennsylvania and Beaver County, and Vistra owns a gas-fired power station in Fayette County alongside at least two others in southeastern Pennsylvania.

      Months prior to announcing the deal with Energy Harbor, Vistra’s Dynegy made headlines in Beaver County for a spate of community donations, including $1,500 to Uncommon Grounds for the Franklin Avenue Park project and $20,000 to the Dollar Energy Fund Hardship Program to assist households with utility bills.

      More:Texas company to acquire Beaver Valley Power Station in merger deal

      Vistra will own a total of four nuclear power plants at closing — Beaver Valley and two Ohio facilities will join the company’s existing Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant in Texas, operated by Vistra subsidiary Luminant. Vistra Vision will combine the company’s growing set of nuclear, solar and energy storage assets.

      Beaver Valley is the county’s fourth-largest employer and generates millions of dollars in local and state taxes each year.

      “I’m hoping (the deal) keeps the status quo in terms of employment and energy produced,” said Beaver County Commissioner Jack Manning, adding that the South Side Area School District relies heavily on tax revenue from the plant. “Clearly it’s an established firm with multiple holdings. I think that’s all positive news for the future of the facility; I think it provides longer-term sustainability.”

      Commissioners were not directly involved with negotiations between Energy Harbor and Vistra, Manning said, but they were certainly aware of Energy Harbor’s yearslong fight to sustain the business. A dozen nuclear power reactors have closed nationwide in the past decade amid competition from cheaper natural gas and renewables, low electricity prices and steep repair costs.

      More:Company to keep Beaver Valley Power Station open, credits Wolf action

      Energy Harbor in 2020 reversed a decision to close the plant by 2021, crediting former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s efforts to join the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Pennsylvania formally joined the RGGI last year, but state participation is delayed by court battles. Vistra President and CEO Jim Burke said President Joe Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act created a nuclear production tax credit to protect against lower power prices, “resulting in tremendous upside opportunity" for the company.

      FirstEnergy, which emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy three years ago as Energy Harbor, assumed full ownership of Beaver Valley after Duquesne Light Co. transferred partial ownership of the facility in 1999.

      State Rep. Rob Matzie, D-16, Ambridge, said Vistra has a “strong track record of success and a demonstrated commitment to Pennsylvania," and U.S. Rep. Chris Deluzio, D-17, Aspinwall, emphasized the value of nuclear power in Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania ranked second in the nation in nuclear power generating capacity in 2021, with nuclear accounting for 31% of net generation in the state. Energy Harbor’s nuclear fleet supplies 33 terawatt-hours of generation to customers in the PJM market — enough to power more than 3.5 million homes and businesses each year, according to the company’s website.

      “The nuclear energy made at the Beaver Valley Power Station is an important, emissions-free power source critical to our energy grid, our energy security, and our climate goals,” said Deluzio. “I look forward to the plant and its new owners — alongside the union workers whose labor makes the place run — serving western Pennsylvania for many years to come.”

      More:NY company buys Beaver County's Bruce Mansfield coal plant with plans for redevelopment

      The deal is expected to close later this year following approvals from federal regulatory agencies. Vistra will not purchase Energy Harbor's remaining coal-fired power plants as part of the deal. New York-based Frontier Group of Companies last year purchased Energy Harbor’s idled Bruce Mansfield coal plant in Shippingport alongside a second plant in Ashtabula, Ohio.

      The University of Massachusetts Amherst Political Economy Research Institute last year ranked Vistra No. 1 on its Greenhouse 100 Polluters Index. The company's priorities now include expanding nuclear, solar and energy storage assets while retiring certain coal facilities to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050. Nuclear power is unique in that it “provides carbon-free electricity and always-on, reliable, baseload capabilities,” Vistra communications director Meranda Cohn said in an email.

      More:Ex-Ohio House Speaker Larry Householder, former Ohio GOP leader Matt Borges found guilty

      “Vistra believes in nuclear power and the vitally important role it will play in our country’s energy transition,” she added. “The company is an experienced operator of nuclear power generation and already operates one of the safest, most efficient, and highest-performing nuclear plants in the country, Comanche Peak Nuclear Power Plant. We’re impressed with the work of the Beaver Valley team, and we look forward to welcoming them to the Vistra family.”

      This article originally appeared on Beaver County Times: Vistra deal 'positive news' for Beaver Valley Power Station, leaders say


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