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Missouri Government And Industry Energy Plans Include Renewables, But Will They Go Far Enough?

Ameren's 2,400-megawatt plant near Labadie, Missouri, is the state's largest coal-fired power plant. It produces an average of 550,000 tons of coal ash each year.
Véronique LaCapra | St. Louis Public Radio

Updated 10/1/2014 to add comments.

Missouri is making headway toward developing a Comprehensive State Energy Plan Wednesday with the inaugural public meeting in St. Louis of the plan's steering committee.

Also on Wednesday, the state's largest electric energy provider, Ameren, released its energy plan for the next two decades.

In June, Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon formally directed the state’s Division of Energy to develop a state energy plan with input from the public and energy stakeholders.

Right before he first announced the energy plan in early 2013, Nixon transferred the energy division from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources ― the agency charged with enforcing the state’s environmental laws ― to the Missouri Department of Economic Development, which promotes economic growth and job creation.

The Division of Energy has until June 2015 to complete the state energy plan.

That’s also when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is due to finalize its rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. States then have until June 2016 to develop a plan to meet those limits  In Missouri’s case that effort is supposed to be spear-headed by the Department of Natural Resources.

Presumably, the Division of Energy’s plan would have already taken those carbon dioxide limits into account. At least that’s what Nixon suggested in a speech to the Midcontinent Independent Service Operator (MISO) in June, where he talked about the state’s energy policy needing to take into account the “new regulations on coal-fired electric generation, which currently supplies 83 percent of Missouri’s electricity.”

Wednesday’s Comprehensive State Energy Plan steering committee meeting was held at Washington University’s Eric P. Newman Education Center Auditorium. You can see the full agenda here.

The 55-member committee includes representatives from industry, government, academia, and other groups with an interest in state energy policy.

Keith Jones is with the Urban League of Metropolitan St. Louis, a group not represented on the committee.

But he was at the meeting because he said he'd like to see the state plan include funding for weatherization assistance for low-income families, who often can't afford their energy bills.

“It puts a strain on them economically," Jones said. "It puts a strain on us, economically, because those costs have to be spread out among all of the ratepayers.”

The dates and locations of additional public meetings in October are listed below:

  • Oct. 9 - Fort Leonard Wood, 1 p.m.
  • Oct. 14 - Missouri Southern State University’s Billingsly Student Center in Joplin, 1 p.m.
  • Oct. 22 - Metropolitan Community College, Penn Valley Campus’ Science and Technology Center, Room PVST 101, in Kansas City, 1 p.m.
  • Oct. 23 - Northwest Missouri State University’s Ballroom in Maryville, 1 p.m.
  • Oct. 28 - Clinton Community Center in Sikeston, 1 p.m.
  • Oct. 30 - Truman State University’s Georgian Room B in Kirksville, 1 p.m.

The public can also provide comments through the Division of Energy’s on-line forum.

Midwest Energy Policy Conference 2014

Wednesday’s state energy plan meeting took place in the same auditorium where the Missouri Energy Initiative’s Midwest Energy Policy Conference just wrapped up. That conference started on Tuesday morning and it brought together representatives from a wide spectrum of energy policy interests from throughout the Midwest.

This year, the conference focused on the EPA’s proposed rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants, and on state energy plans.

Ameren Files Its 20-Year Energy Plan

Also on Wednesday, Ameren Missouri filed its plans for energy generation and efficiency programs with the Missouri Public Service Commission.

Known as an Integrated Resource Plan, or IRP, it analyzes the projected energy needs of Ameren’s electricity customers over the next 20 years, and describes the utility company’s “preferred approach” for meeting them.

Ameren Missouri files an IRP with the Missouri Public Service Commission every three years.

According to the company’s press release, the current plan includes the following components:

  • Expanding renewable energy generation by adding 400 megawatts of wind power, 45 megawatts of solar, 28 megawatts of hydroelectric and 5 megawatts of landfill gas;
  • Continuing to offer energy efficiency programs to customers through the utility's ActOnEnergy program and adding demand response programs when they are cost-effective;
  • Retiring approximately one-third (about 1,800 megawatts) of Ameren Missouri's current coal-fired generating capacity. This includes converting two units at Meramec Energy Center to natural gas in 2016, and retiring the remaining units at Meramec by the end of 2022 and the Sioux Energy Center by the end of 2033;
  • Reducing emissions of Ameren Missouri's existing coal fleet by continuing to make investments in pollution-control equipment;
  • Continuing to rely on current nuclear generation while preserving options for future nuclear generation;
  • Adding 600 megawatts of combined-cycle and natural gas generation in 2034.

Ameren Missouri currently has a total generating capacity of about 10,500 megawatts. Over 70 percent of the electricity it generates comes from its four coal-fired power plants: Meramec (831 megawatts), Sioux (972 megawatts), Rush Island (1,182 megawatts), and Labadie (2,374 megawatts).

In its release, Ameren said the plan would include the construction in 2016 of its second solar energy center, the largest in the state. Its first solar complex, in O’Fallon, Mo., is scheduled for completion later this year.

It would also add 400 megawatts of wind power to its portfolio.

But the Sierra Club’s Andy Knott called that “too little, too late,” compared to what other utility companies are doing.

“According to Ameren’s plan, they would get to 400 megawatts of wind by 2026," Knott said. "Kansas City Power & Light, in about a year, will have 900 megawatts of wind. So in about a year, they will be double what Ameren will have in 2026.”

Ameren Missouri said overall, its energy plan would allow the company to achieve a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2035.

The U.S. EPA’s proposed rule would require the state of Missouri to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by 21 percent by the year 2030.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience