In Missouri, the Renewable Energy Standard and the Will of the People Threatened
Posted March 12, 2013
Back in 2008, an impressive thing happened in Missouri. Missourians voted by a 2-1 margin for Proposition C, which created the Renewable Energy Standard. Now, the Renewable Energy Standard and the will of the people are at risk.
The Standard requires that investor-owned utilities gradually increase renewable electricity generation over the years so that by 2021, Missouri’s energy mix will contain 15 percent renewable energy coming from sources like solar energy, wind, biomass, and small-scale hydropower facilities. To protect ratepayers, utilities are prevented from increasing power prices more than 1 percent.
This standard intended to bring new renewable energy projects, like wind farms and solar panels, to Missouri, in turn stimulating the economy and providing new jobs. A 2008 University of Missouri-St. Louis study predicted that the Renewable Energy Standard would create 9,591 jobs and generate $2.86 billion in economic activity in the state over the next 20 years.
Because of utilities’ resistance to complying with the Standard, Missourians have not seen as much of the economic benefit of the Standard as they should expect by now. However, one notable exception is the solar rebate program. To encourage the development of solar energy in the state, the Standard states that utilities are to provide a $2.00 rebate per installed watt for customer-based new or expanded solar projects, making solar more affordable. As a result, Missouri solar installations have increased from 101 kW in 2009 to more than 7.8 MW in 2012. In all, the solar industry in Missouri now employs more than 1,800 Missourians, and Missouri is home to 61 solar companies.
Missouri need only look to neighboring Kansas to see the robust benefits a renewable energy standard can provide: the 19 wind farms operating in Kansas have created more than 12,300 jobs for Kansas citizens, $13.7 million in payments to landowners annually, and $10.4 million in contributions to communities each year. Missouri has enough wind resource to power the state nine times over, and yet, likely because of the uncertainty produced by legal battles over the Standard, wind projects have stalled in recent years, despite a surge after the passage of the Standard.
Today, instead of pushing forward to welcome the renewable energy industry to Missouri, along with the plentiful clean energy jobs the industry is known to provide, the Missouri legislature is now considering a bill (House Bill 44) that would allow all hydropower facilities, no matter how large, how far away, and how old, to count towards the Renewable Energy Standard. The bill was introduced by Bart Korman, a known ALEC member, in what looks to be a continuing push by fossil fuel interests to roll back state renewable portfolio standards throughout the nation. This attack is also underway in Kansas, Ohio, Arizona, Montana, Oregon, Washington, and North Carolina.
House Bill 44 would effectively neutralize the Renewable Energy Standard because utilities would be allowed to purchase renewable energy credits for power produced from near-hundred year old hydropower dams to satisfy the Standard. House Bill 44 ignores billions of dollars of potential in-state investment and signals to the renewable energy industry looking to invest in the Midwest that Missouri is not interested in developing its wind and solar resources – that Missouri is not open for business. All the potential jobs and economic development for Missourian people and companies Proposition C was meant to encourage would be gone. Alarmingly, House Bill 44 has already passed the House and has now moved onto the Senate.
Five years ago, Missouri citizens made it abundantly clear that they wanted to see new renewable energy projects in the state, along with the jobs and economic benefits that come with such development. And this sentiment was throughout Missouri, not just in the cities. In fact, every county but one voted in favor of Proposition C. The House has already ignored the will of the people by passing House Bill 44. All eyes are now on the state Senate – will it too turn away from the call of the voters, or will it stand up and defend the will of the people to have a meaningful Renewable Energy Standard?
Take Action Now - tell your state senator to defend the Renewable Energy Standard.