Vistra Energy Corp. is a publicly listed energy company headquartered in Texas, USA. In 2019, its revenue was US$11.8 billion and installed capacity was 39 GW in 2019. It is the largest competitive residential electricity provider in the country and offers over 40 renewable energy plans. Vistra is showing signs of transitioning from a traditional coal-burning utility to a company taking climate change more seriously.
Vistra is a leading example of a company transitioning away from a reliance on coal to setting emissions reduction targets and taking action to decarbonise. Since 2018, it has improved its climate reporting, appointed a chief sustainability officer and developed decarbonisation targets. This is a major shift for a company that previously relied on fossil fuels and whose management stated views in 2018 that were climate negative.
As a publicly listed independent power producer, Vistra is more exposed to the risk of stranded assets than state-owned and regulated companies. These have state support to manage the risk of price increases resulting from policy changes such as carbon pricing. Independent utilities like Vistra will also be competing with more flexible, low-cost renewables, as well as regulated utilities that have guaranteed prices and captive markets.
Vistra has a new battery power business stream with significant potential. It should expand its low-carbon technologies in order to more fully prepare for the low-carbon electricity market. Over 80% of Vistra’s electric power generation currently comes from fossil fuel assets, so it has a long journey ahead to become low carbon.
Vistra is awarded a trend score of +. If the company were reassessed in the near future, its score would likely improve. Since 2018, Vistra’s public statements have become increasingly climate positive, and the company recently appointed a chief sustainability officer, signed up to TCFD recommendations and improved its sustainability reporting. The closure of further coal plants would likely also improve its score.
Vistra has committed to reducing emissions by 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050. It has 2 GW of solar in its development pipeline, equivalent to approximately 5% of its installed capacity in 2018. The company provides little further detail publicly of its plans.
Vistra has 450 MW of battery storage under development and 2 GW of solar development opportunities. Although the size of this development pipeline increased between 2017 and 2018, there is no evidence that any of the projects have been implemented.
Vistra has retired or announced plans to retire 13 GW of coal since 2010. In the fourth quarter of 2019, four coal plants were retired in Illinois, which represented 7.8 million metric tons of CO2e emissions that year. Overall, Vistra has achieved a 39% reduction in emissions since 2010. The company appointed a chief sustainability officer in 2019.