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Power outages lead to staggering $900M financial hit for Irving-based Vistra Energy

"Vistra management preliminarily estimates the one-time adverse impact will be in the range of $900 million to [$1.3 billion],” the company stated in its 8-K filing.
Credit: Taylor Lumsden

DALLAS — Vistra Corporation, an Irving-based company that owns and operates power plants across Texas, said it will likely lose more than $900 million after deadly winter storms kept it from operating some of its facilities last week because of a shortage of natural gas.

“While the financial impacts of Winter Storm Uri to Vistra are not yet finalized, Vistra management preliminarily estimates the one-time adverse impact will be in the range of $900 million to [$1.3 billion],” the company stated in its 8-K filing on Friday morning. “The final amount of the estimated loss is subject to a variety of factors including, but not limited to, outstanding pricing, load, and settlement data from ERCOT, potential state corrective action, or the outcome of potential litigation arising from this event.”

Curt Morgan, the Vistra CEO, participated in the investor call on Friday morning from Austin where he voluntarily agreed to testify before state lawmakers probing how to respond to the deadly outages.

“I would like to start out with the elephant in the room,” Morgan said. “I’m disappointed and it hurts but it is what it is.”

Vistra Energy could not operate some of its facilities at full capacity because of the shortage of natural gas that is needed to fuel the plants. It was then forced to purchase power on the wholesale market at exorbitant prices.

"I don’t care whether we make money at the end of this. And I still don't care." 

"There's no winner in this. None whatsoever," Morgan said in testimony to the legislature on Thursday. "We put everything we could on the grid."

Still, Vistra performed far better than some of its competitors during the statewide power outages. The company usually has an 18% market share of the generation capacity in ERCOT, but Morgan said “we estimate we produced 25-30% of the power on the grid during the period Monday-Friday. Our singular focus was putting electrons on the grid, often at the expense of making money.”

During Thursday’s testimony to a Texas House Joint Committee, Morgan warned of the negative financial outcome testifying that his company will have to eat millions in losses from wild market swings during the power outages, "We're the guy sitting in the middle getting it on both ends.”

Credit: AP
Curt Morgan, Vistra chief executive officer, answers questions for the Committees on State Affairs and Energy Resources as they hold a joint public hearing to consider the factors that led to statewide electrical blackouts, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021, in Austin, Texas. The hearings were the first in Texas since a blackout that was one of the worst in U.S. history, leaving more than 4 million customers without power and heat in subfreezing temperatures. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

Despite the loss, Morgan said he would not cut $5 million that the company set aside to help customers.

“We’re about helping people not just about making money. We do care about that, but we have a bunch of people down here that are in need. This became a survival game,” he told investors on Friday morning. “We take that seriously.”

On Thursday, Morgan testified that Vistra warned ERCOT that a shortage of natural gas could force some power plants offline. In addition, Morgan said that four days before the storm, Vistra also contacted the governor's office to express concern, each of the Public Utility Commissioners, and the Texas Railroad Commission, which has oversight of pipelines. 

Houston-based NRG Energy announces its earnings on Monday morning.

Watch Thursday's hearings: