Vistra Energy is embracing new technologies such as batteries and renewables thanks to an innovative, practical approach.
By the end of 2020, Vistra Energy will have the ultimate global bragging rights: The world’s largest battery storage project will have the company’s name on it.
Batteries have the power to change the electricity market, and a recent drop in battery prices is making it viable. Vistra is capitalizing on this change by building a 1,200-megawatt-hour battery system, the largest of its kind, at its Moss Landing, Calif., site. “This is going to be a game changer in the future of electricity,” says Vistra president and CEO Curt Morgan, who heads the 5,400-person integrated energy company out of Irving, Texas.
But that’s only one of the ways Morgan is leading the company toward a balanced portfolio of energy sources. Vistra operates in competitive markets where it can offer innovative products that appeal to its diverse customer base. (Currently, its most popular retail offering is called “Free Nights and Solar Days,” an electricity plan in Vistra’s home state that provides solar energy to customers during the day while offering overnight energy usage at no cost.) “We view technology as an opportunity—and we embrace it,” Morgan says.
For Morgan, who joined Vistra in 2016, seizing these opportunities has become a mantra of sorts.
When he joined the energy company, it had 1.7 million customers across Texas, only a fraction of the 4 million customers it expects to serve across 19 states and the District of Columbia following the closing of its acquisition of Crius Energy. When Vistra merged with Dynegy in 2018, it was a turning point that created a multiregional company and significantly changed its electric generation fuel mix to mostly gas. At the same time, Vistra began investing in new electric technologies, further changing the composition of the company.
The secret to this kind of innovation involves promoting a learning, team-oriented culture, says Morgan. At headquarters, there are no offices, which facilitates an open, collaborative environment. Volunteerism, company-wide quarterly town halls, and off-the-clock annual outings with employees’ families are part of the fabric of Vistra. “We care about things beyond just making money,” Morgan says.
But even with industry accolades pouring in, Vistra is focused on sustainability, says Morgan, who refers to himself as a “CEO who’s paranoid about the future.” That means Vistra’s future growth will continue to embrace new technologies. Says Morgan: “Technology is changing our industry in a profound way, and we’re making some pretty big moves.”