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Missouri Poised to Meet EPA Carbon Reduction Targets Years Ahead of Schedule, Thanks to State Efficiency, Renewable Energy Policies

David Weiskopf

Posted June 17, 2014

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Missouri’s existing clean energy policies, if fully implemented, can put the state on track to meet the carbon pollution reduction targets in the EPA’s new Clean Power Plan nine years ahead of schedule.

If Missouri meets its goals of generating 15% of its electricity from renewable resources like solar and wind by 2021 and offsetting 9.9% of electricity sales with energy efficiency by 2020, Missouri could achieve a carbon intensity reduction in 2021equivalent to what the EPA is requiring for the state in 2030. This is great news for Missouri’s citizens, who will see tremendous health and economic benefits from modernizing the power sector.

Missouri residents are already on track to save hundreds of millions of dollars on their electricity bills, thanks to utility-sponsored energy efficiency programs like the KCP&L's  recently approved new program for Kansas City-area residents, and like the hugely successful program currently being run by Ameren Missouri in St. Louis and the eastern half of the state. Additional pollution reduction measures could create an additional 3,900 energy efficiency jobs for Missourians while saving households $5.60 per month on electricity. All of this is in addition to the 3,700 solar jobs to be created by the end of 2014, and the jobs created by bringing more wind power to the state.

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Dirty energy is costing Missouri billions. Right now, $1.4 billion a year is leaving the state to import dirty coal. In 2011, Missouri saw more than 7,700 hospital admissions for asthma, with an average cost of $14,300 for each stay. Hazardous weather in 2011 was responsible for the deaths of 180 people and caused $3.26 billion in damage to property and crops. Drenching rainstorms broke precipitation records in 17 counties. Even though warmer temperatures mean a longer growing season, the National Climate Assessment predicts that crops such as corn and soybeans will be devastated by more frequent late spring freezes.

As our friends at the Missouri Coalition for the Environment put it, “If we do not act quickly to limit our carbon emissions and address climate change, the Missouri we pass along to the next generation will be drastically different than the one we know today. Continuing to burn fossil fuels threatens Missouri’s expansive oak and hickory forests and endangers our water resources. Increased temperatures will displace certain species from the Midwest and increased flooding will exacerbate erosion and runoff into our streams and rivers.”

The Clean Power Plan signals a transition away from our reliance on dirty fuels and ends the era of unlimited carbon dioxide emissions, and will move Missouri forward towards a healthier and cleaner future. But Missouri already has a head start on this future, thanks to existing state policies such as the Renewable Energy Standard and the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act.

EPA’s Target for Missouri Would Produce Significant Reductions …

As my colleague David Hawkins explains, and as is spelled out in more detail in this fact sheet, EPA took into consideration the carbon pollution reductions Missouri could cost-effectively achieve through four “building blocks”:

  1. improved coal-plant efficiency (getting more electricity out each lump of coal burnt);
  2. making greater use of existing natural gas plants instead of burning dirtier coal;
  3. increasing use of low-carbon energy like wind and solar,
  4. ramping up energy efficiency savings from utility programs, such as weatherization and upgraded appliance rebates, that help families, businesses, and industry save energy and the money they spend on it.

Based on this formula of four achievable building blocks, EPA determined that Missouri can achieve a carbon intensity of 1,544 pounds per megawatt-hour of electricity produced in 2030 – a reduction of 21% from 2012 levels.  (Carbon intensity is a measure of the amount of carbon pollution produced per unit of electricity generated.) There’s also a 2020 “interim” target of 1,621 lbs/MWh, to be sure we are on the right track to hit the final goal.

Missouri’s 2012 starting point of 1,963 pounds per megawatt hour (lbs/MWh) is the 7th highest of any state. Missouri is starting out from a tough spot, but it will not be asked to completely clean up its energy sector overnight. In fact, 25 states already have lower carbon intensities than Missouri is being asked to achieve 16 years from now.

These reductions will have significant environmental benefits. If Missouri’s electricity in 2012 had been as clean as it will be in 2030, the state would have avoided emitting over 15 million metric tons of carbon pollution that year. That’s like eliminating the pollution from over 3 million cars – more than one for every household in the state. It would take nearly 400 million new urban trees to soak up that much carbon pollution.

… But it only begins to scratch the surface of what’s possible in Missouri

While EPA used these “building blocks” to set the target, the Show-Me State is the master of its own destiny. Missouri’s target is based on a very conservative estimate of what the state can achieve, and it is up to Missouri to hit this target through whatever system of reductions make the most sense for Missouri.

MO RE vs EPA .png

When EPA considered the Energy Efficiency and new renewable energy building blocks, it based its assessment of what is achievable in the state on existing regional policies and averages. But when Missouri set clean energy goals for itself, it set its sights on a bigger prize than just keeping pace with lagging regional averages. Missouri’s renewables goal would get the state’s power sector to 15% renewables by 2021, and the energy efficiency targets in the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act would offset 9.9% of electricity generation by 2020.

By contrast, the EPA projection doesn’t get Missouri to 2% renewables until about 2020 – 7 years later than the state law requires – and it take the EPA until 2029 to catch up with where Missouri wants to be on Efficiency in 2020! If Missouri meets its own goals on a statewide basis, and if the statewide electrical load grows on par with the national average, Missouri would achieve a carbon intensity of 1,548 pounds per MWh in 2021. That puts it within 4 pounds of EPA’s 2030 target 9 years ahead of schedule.

MO EE vs EPA.png

The EPA target is clearly readily within reach for Missouri, and there is plenty of room for EPA to tighten the standard to bring even bigger benefits to the state (EPA is currently accepting comments here to prepare for finalizing the rule in 2015). We are off to a good start. The question now is, where do we go from here?

As Missouri develops its comprehensive statewide energy plan, and its state plan for meeting the standards in EPA’s Clean Power Plan, the state has a tremendous opportunity to lock in the gains for public health and the economy that will come from meeting the goals that it already has on the books. A treasure trove of efficiency potential exists in Missouri’s cities, factories, and workplaces.  Solar and wind energy are just getting started, and with next generation low-carbon energy resources only now beginning to emerge, Missouri could become an energy innovation hub. Tapping these resources will put the state ahead of the game for meeting the EPA standards, and it will bring a wealth of benefits to the Show-me State.

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit

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