Today, the Missouri Department of Economic Development (DED) is releasing a comprehensive State Energy Plan that lays out a clear pathway for the Show-Me state to accelerate its transition away from coal and toward cleaner, more local power supplies.
The plan—ordered by Governor Nixon—has been a year and a half in the making and benefited from a robust public stakeholder process. And based on the executive summary that was released last week, the final plan looks to be a significant improvement over the draft version because it includes clear and effective recommendations for prioritizing greater investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Missouri officials now have a great opportunity to kick start the State Energy Plan’s implementation by incorporating its recommendations in the state’s Clean Power Plan compliance strategy.
Improvements in the final plan
As part of the governor’s broad stakeholder process, several of my Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) colleagues participated in technical working groups that afforded us the opportunity to provide feedback on the draft State Energy Plan. In a June 2015 blog, I identified three key recommendations that the final State Energy Plan needed to include in order to help accelerate Missouri’s clean energy transition. And I’m happy to report that the Missouri DED successfully incorporated our comments (which were also echoed by many other clean energy advocates and concerned citizens) in its recommendations. These include:
- Strengthening the Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) to 20 percent by 2025. An expansion of the current 15 percent by 2021 RES provides a clear stable market signal for developers to continue investing in Missouri’s homegrown renewable energy resources. In support of this recommendation, UCS submitted independent analysis showing that Missouri could cost-effectively exceed its existing RES target. DED recommendations also call for establishing voluntary RES goals for non investor-owned electric utilities.
- Making Missouri’s existing voluntary energy efficiency goals mandatory. The Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act (MEEIA), adopted in 2009, establishes voluntary goals for utilities to invest in energy efficiency measures. Under the State Energy Plan, these annual reductions in electricity demand would become mandatory, like two dozen leading states have done.
- Strengthening Missouri’s Net Metering and Easy Connection Act. To help address Missouri’s current inadequate policy for incentivizing rooftop solar investments, the State Energy Plan recommends increasing net-metering system size limits from 100 kilowatts to 500 kilowatts, and requiring annual (rather than monthly) credits for excess power at the retail level.
In addition to these smart and effective recommendations, the State Energy Plan calls for a number of additional clean energy measures, including:
- a more diversified and secure power supply by decreasing dependence on imported fossil fuel energy sources and maximizing in-state clean energy resources
- a thermal clean energy standard to support for renewable thermal technologies
- standardized microgrid interconnection requirements
- tax incentives to foster greater wind development and maximize supply chain development for renewable energy equipment
- on-bill financing programs to enable consumers to receive upfront funding for energy efficiency improvements
- expanded residential energy efficiency programs to hard-to-reach customers and vulnerable households
The strong focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency policies in its recommendations is in large part a reflection of the overwhelming support these technologies received during the public comment period (see figure). The DED should be lauded for developing a plan moves the state toward an energy future that its citizens so clearly want.
If successfully implemented, these recommendations have the potential to put Missouri on track toward greater renewable energy and energy efficiency deployment while reducing the state’s risk of overreliance on natural gas as it shifts away from coal.
An unfortunate disconnect
One important lapse in the plan’s Executive Summary is the lack of a serious discussion of Missouri’s need to develop a compliance strategy in the next year for the U.S. EPA’s recently finalized Clean Power Plan. The Clean Power Plan, for the first time, puts national limits on power sector carbon emissions and requires states to collectively reduce their emissions 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.
The good news is that thanks to Missouri’s sensible existing commitments to renewable energy, energy efficiency, and closing old and uneconomic coal plants, the state is already well positioned to comply with it Clean Power Plan targets. A recent UCS analysis shows that these existing commitments will put Missouri nearly two-thirds of the way towards meeting its 2022 emission reduction targets and at least 30 percent of the way toward its final 2030 targets. Fully implementing the recommendations in the State Energy Plan will put Missouri on even better footing.
Now comes the hard part
The State Energy Plan presents a compelling case for further investing in Missouri’s clean energy future. Now comes a tougher challenge—ensuring the report and its recommendations don’t get relegated to collecting dust on a bookshelf. Governor Nixon and DED officials appear committed to not letting that happen. That’s good news, and not only because so much time and resources went into its development.
Many of the plan’s recommendations require legislative action, and convincing legislative leaders to embrace the State Energy Plan’s findings won’t be easy. But it’s worth a shot. In addition to environmental and climate benefits, following the State Energy Plan’s recommendations can help help create jobs and spur economic development.
That’s an argument that all parties can support. It’s time to put this plan into action, and start leading Missouri toward a clean energy future.