Opinion: Grain Belt Express approval by PSC benefits all Missourians

  

As the mayor of Hannibal, “America’s Hometown,” I have seen my fair share of proposals, plans and ideas come across my desk. The same small-town values that my father raised me on, are the same ones that allow me to be optimistic about a project that stands to benefit not only my town, but communities across our great state. The project is called the Grain Belt Express.

This week, the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) voted to approve the Grain Belt Express transmission project. This decision clears the path for the transmission line to bring low-cost, clean energy into Missouri. The PSC decision is welcomed by communities across the state, both on the proposed path and elsewhere, like Hannibal. It advances a process that began back in 2016, when the Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMEUC) approved a proposal to lower wholesale costs and increase the public power agency’s renewable energy supply.

 

James Hark

Now, by purchasing long-term transmission service on the Grain Belt Express transmission project, municipal utilities can replace more costly power contracts set to expire as the transmission project comes online. The Grain Belt Express transmission project will deliver low-cost renewable electricity to Missouri homes and businesses. Today, 39 Missouri communities serving a population of greater than 350,000 people are signed on to realize at least $12.8 million in annual savings for their customers through an agreement between Grain Belt Express and MJMEUC. Specifically, to Hannibal, a community of just under 18,000 residents, it would mean approximately $750,000 in savings annually for our town.

 

The approved transmission route in Missouri will benefit the state through approximately $500 million in direct investment to develop and build the project. It will put more than 1,500 Missourians to work building the line and generate more than $7.2 million in new tax revenue for eight Missouri counties. But make no mistake, the project is poised to benefit the entire state.

From Hannibal to Lamar, Rock Port to Thayer, and communities in-between like Columbia, Kirkwood, and Rolla, cities with municipal utilities are adding to their energy diversity and cost-savings. A municipal utility is owned and operated in the public interest, for the benefit of the residents of the city.  It exists to provide a public service to the citizens, businesses, and industries of the community. Service, not profit, is the utility’s mission and local ownership means that customers’ utility dollars stay in the community, creating jobs and supporting the local economy.

Currently, 39 Missouri municipal utilities will diversify their energy portfolio and receive a cost-effective hedge against changing fuel prices and environmental regulations with the GBX project. The energy delivered will provide a high capacity factor that can be produced for approximately 2₵/ kilowatt hour (kWh). The project will not require extra government subsidies or incentives. This transmission project, along with a power purchase wind energy agreement, will save Missouri’s non-profit municipal utilities more than $10 million annually. It is timed to replace more costly power contracts set to expire as this transmission project is scheduled to come on line.

With this week’s PSC decision, the energy path forward for Missouri is clear, clean, and cost-effective.