Dynegy still in enviro cross-hairs

earns_dynegy_nybz156 (AP Photo)

Dynegy is holding its annual shareholders meeting today featuring a rather non-controversial set of topics for voting — renewing board terms, approving the auditors, etc. But outside the meeting will be another story.
The Sierra Club and others will be demonstrating against the company’s plans to build as many as six new coal-fired power plants throughout the country in coming years. This is a continuation of the campaign started against Dynegy as “the new king coal,” about a year ago. This was shortly after the private equity buyout of TXU Energy took attention off that’s company’s coal plant building plans.
Yochanan Zakai, corporate responsibility coordinator for Co-op America, a non-profit that works with investors to push environmentally responsible practices, plans to speak briefly inside the shareholder meeting and to speak with Dynegy CEO Bruce Williamson. His group is presenting some 10,000 letters from shareholders, residents near the planned projects and others asking Dynegy to not invest in coal. Instead Dynegy should focus on renewable energy, they say.

dynegy_protest A protest outside Dynegy’s Houston offices in February. (Erin Trieb / For The Chronicle)

Dynegy doesn’t have any particular experience in renewable energy projects, so I asked Zakai in a phone interview yesterday what Dynegy should do instead:
“More forward-thinking companies making investments in renewables are not going to be faced with a carbon tax or other cost of a carbon trading system. With their choices Dynegy is putting themselves at risk of having to deal with these costs,” Zakai said. “It’s up to them to decide. If they choose to invest in outdated tech they will see outdated returns.”
Zakai said wind will be the main source of new renewable power projects for the coming years but that the cost of solar continues to come down. The huge opportunity for new power, however, is simply eliminating waste through greater conservation efforts, he said.
A few recent developments in the fight against Dynegy the Sierra Club points to:
Baylor University’s Student Senate passed a resolution against coal plants, specifically citing Dynegy’s coal plant proposed nearby Riesel (the Sandy Creek project).
• Last week the Sierra Club filed “Notices of Intent to Sue” on Dynegy’s proposed plants near Riesel and in Georgia (the Longleaf project). Essentially they sent letters to them saying they plan to file suit.
Has the campaign had any impact? Hard to say. Dynegy’s stock price has had some small ups and downs in the past year, but so far the campaign doesn’t seem to be a big topic among analysts who cover the company.