JEFFERSON CITY – Utility companies and their supporters have successfully quashed a state law that would have required some of them to purchase wind or solar power from providers in Missouri or surrounding states.
On Wednesday, the Public Service Commission withdrew a proposed rule that would have forced investor-owned utilities such as Ameren Missouri to buy 1 percent of their energy portfolio this year from renewable sources created in or transported to Missouri. That percentage rises to 15 percent in 2021.
Utility companies will still have to meet the rising renewable energy standard, but they will not be required to purchase that energy locally. That means utilities can purchase renewable energy certificates on the open market, even if the energy never makes its way to Missouri.
The rule, written as a result of 2008’s voter approved Proposition C, had been on hold because a legislative committee voted last summer that it went beyond the wording of the proposition.
The debate over the rule has created a heated discussion in the Capitol over both the future of renewable energy in the state and the balance of power among the executive branch, the legislative branch and voters.
Lawmakers are also in the process of passing a resolution that would reaffirm the decision by the legislative committee – called the joint committee on administrative rules. The legislative action would have the same effect on the law as the PSC withdrawing the rule, though there is some dispute about which action would withstand a legal challenge.
For now, though, environmental groups believe that Proposition C has in effect been “gutted” by not requiring renewable energy to be purchased in or actually transported to Missouri.
PSC chairman Robert Clayton said that even though he supports the rule, he proposed withdrawing it after discussions with legislative leaders. Clayton said he hopes lawmakers will propose some sort of legislative compromise between the supporters of Proposition C – who say their intent was to spur job creation of renewable energy companies in Missouri – and the utility companies, which want to keep costs down.
“Hopefully the Legislature will take this matter up and provide us the clarity that is needed,” Clayton said.
Earlier this week, Speaker of the House Steve Tilley, R-Perryville, appointed Kansas City Democrat Jason Holsman as chairman of a new renewable energy committee. That committee is expected to debate the Proposition C rules later in the session.
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