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Missouri General Assembly kills two rules on renewable energy sources

JEFFERSON CITY | Missouri lawmakers this week threw out two regulations governing the source of renewable energy.

The state’s voter-approved renewable energy standard had required power utilities to either generate energy from renewable sources in Missouri, or directly import it from elsewhere.

With the elimination of the two regulations, however, utilities instead can purchase credits for wind, solar and other alternative energy sources that may never actually reach Missouri homes and businesses.

Supporters of the renewable energy standard complained that the changes rendered the entire law meaningless.

“There’s no uncertainty here, no shades of gray. They killed it. They made it worse than if there was no law at all,” said PJ Wilson, director of Renew Missouri, the group that wrote and campaigned for the standard. “Now the effect is that rates go up, the money goes away and nothing changes in Missouri.”

But lawmakers maintained that the rules they removed went well beyond the language of the law. Power utilities argued that purchasing credits offers needed flexibility in the expensive and time-consuming process of developing new sources of electricity.

Although the legislature has acted, Gov. Jay Nixon still has veto power over the resolution throwing out the rules. A Nixon spokesman declined comment on whether the governor would sign or veto it, saying only he would review the matter when it reached his desk.

The state’s renewable energy standard was passed by voters in 2008, and requires utilities to generate at least 2 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2011, and at least 15 percent by 2021.

The Public Service Commission, the state agency that regulates utilities, enacted regulations last year clarifying the law and specifying what utilities must do to comply with it.

Those rules included “geographic sourcing” requirements that the renewable energy be either “located in Missouri” or “sold to Missouri electric energy retail customers.”

But the regulations ran into trouble last summer when the legislature’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules voted to disallow them, setting up the more recent votes by the full House and Senate.

State Sen. Luann Ridgeway, the Smithville Republican who sponsored the resolution to throw out the rules, said a geographic sourcing requirement could not be found in the law approved by voters – even if it was Renew Missouri’s intent to include it. “The bottom line of it was, I think, that some people were trying to get by regulation what they failed to get through legislation,” she said.

Wilson disagreed, noting that requirements on geographic sourcing do exist in the law and eliminating them from the rules changes the impact of the renewable energy standard.

He said it also means that utilities will charge ratepayers for renewable energy “credits” that comply on paper with the standard, but import no actual power to the state, and utilities will have no incentive to invest in renewable energy sources in Missouri, since credits from alternative energy-abundant places such as Arizona and California will be cheaper.

Chuck Caisley, a KCP&L spokesman, countered that power companies had no intention of relying solely on faraway credits, saying the issue was “… how to make it a cost-effective transition while utility companies ramp up their renewable capabilities.”