JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Regardless of the global warming debate, new pressure from investors and government rule makers may have benefits for Missouri utilities and consumers.
Ameren Missouri and Kansas City Power & Light are two such companies in Missouri under pressure to make the transition to more efficient energy.
Both companies have not only spent time researching the methods, but have heavily invested in renewable energy. KCP&L’s portfolio shows that roughly 12 percent of their energy comes from wind, with solar and hydro adding another one percent.
KCP&L was the first utility in the country to own and operate a commercial-scale wind facility in the state of Kansas. They’ve also continued looking into methods of harnessing solar energy, and partnered with the Kansas City Royals to place a 120-panel solar system at Kauffman Stadium.
KCP&L also signed a 10-year agreement to buy renewable energy from Central Nebraska Public Power and Irrigation District’s three hydroelectric plants, the first addition of hydro power to their energy mix. Ameren Missouri currently operates three hydroelectric energy centers.
Ameren Missouri has also explored a number of energy alternatives and recently received the green light by the Missouri Public Service Commission to begin their pilot program on solar energy. As part of the Solar Partnership Pilot, Ameren would construct several solar generation facilities, which the company would own and manage in its service territory. The purpose of this program is to look at how small-scale solar generation can impact Ameren’s distribution system as well as gauging customer interest to participate.
Both companies have even looked into ways to turn waste into energy, using the methane from landfills and cattle farms to convert into electricity.
The technology to switch fully has not yet come to fruition, since renewable resources do not yet have the capabilities of creating an uninterrupted source of electricity. But the companies have continued searching for ways to keep moving forward, while the demands to transition to efficient energy continues to grow.
Utility companies have been dealing with federal mandates on energy efficiency for some time now. In Missouri, voters have been pushing companies in that direction for years. The 2008 election saw the passage of the Missouri Clean Energy Act, replacing the voluntary voluntary renewable energy objective with a mandatory renewable portfolio standard, in which investor-owned utilities to use renewable energy technology to make up 15 percent of annual retail sales by 2021.
But this past November, a coalition of investor groups filed an unprecedented five shareholder resolutions with the two energy giants in the Show Me State, expressing their concerns over the companies’ reliance on fossil fuels and lack of investing in renewable energy. They say that cleaner energy continues to be the safest investment for stable shareholder profits, and that the companies need to be more responsible with their energy generation as well as become more transparent with their shareholders.
Investors owning over $2,000 in Ameren or KCP&L stock are able to file resolutions, which are basically proposals or recommendations written on behalf of a shareholder and regulated by the Security and Exchange Commission.
Renew Missouri’s proposal requests KCP&L to look into the potential profit of using renewable energy generation by 2040. They say that there are many cases in which private corporations have transitioned from using fossil fuels to renewable energy, with profits ranging from 25 to 100 percent.
“Many corporations have and are currently making commitments to operate with renewable energy,” Philip Fracica of Renew Missouri said. “Our concerns are that KCP&L will not be adequately prepared to meet private sector demand for renewable energy generation and will lead to job creators opening up new offices in other Midwest states that do allow for compliance with their internal renewable mandates.”
The Missouri Sierra Club’s resolution with Ameren Missouri urges the utility company to prepare a report on how they could use 100 percent renewable energy by the year 2050.
“While Ameren is the largest utility in the state, it is lagging further behind the other Missouri utilities in the transition to clean energy,” John Hickey, Chapter Director of Missouri Sierra Club. “With less than 1 percent of Ameren Missouri’s electricity coming from clean energy sources and increasing consumer demand for clean energy, it is vital for the health of the company, investor portfolios, as well as the public health of our community that Ameren begin investing more heavily in wind and solar for electric generation.”
Once the filings were made, all that is left for the shareholders is to wait until the annual company meetings in the spring, where the resolutions will then be voted on by other shareholders.
Ameren’s Ajay Arora, vice president of environmental services and generation resource planning, released a statement in response to the resolutions, grateful for the support for the company’s long-term goals:
“Ameren is making the transition to cleaner energy generation in a responsible manner while maintaining the reliability our customers expect. For years, we have been executing our Integrated Resource Plan (IRP), a 20-year energy outlook, which is supported by stakeholders throughout Missouri. Our IRP provides the necessary framework to responsibly transition to a cleaner and more diverse generation portfolio in a manner that ensures reliable and affordable service for our customers. It will result in:
- Offering cost-effective customer energy efficiency programs that can be used to reduce the amount of energy needed to provide the same level of service.
- Retiring one-third of our current coal-fired generating capacity.
- Significantly expanding our renewables portfolio by adding approximately 500 megawatts of wind, solar, hydroelectric and landfill gas generation.
“By executing our plan, we will ensure that our customers’ long-term electric energy needs are met in a safe, reliable, cost-effective and environmentally responsible manner.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.