A Missouri appeals court on Tuesday upheld Public Service Commission rules outlining how the state’s renewable energy law is implemented.
The opinion from the Western District Court of Appeals reverses a lower court order concerning the impact of the green power mandate on electric rates. Earlier this year, a Cole County Circuit Court judge had declared the rules “unlawful and unreasonable” and remanded the matter back to the PSC.
Tuesday’s court decision is a victory both for the PSC, which spent months developing the rules, and renewable energy advocates, who filed a brief on the commission’s behalf.
Henry Robertson, a lawyer representing Renew Missouri, said the lower court ruling could have had a “crippling effect” on efforts to advance green power in the state if it had been upheld.
Missouri voters approved the state’s renewable energy standard by a 2-1 ratio in 2008. The law requires Ameren and other for-profit utilities to gradually increase the use of renewable energy through 2021, when 15 percent of their power must come from wind, sun and other renewable resources.
The law says the use of renewable energy cannot cause electric rates to rise more than 1 percent from what they would be otherwise. The rate cap provision in the rules was at the heart of the legal battle.
The PSC rules require utilities to use a 10-year average when calculating the 1 percent rate impact to allow for higher upfront costs. Utilities argued for a narrower definition of how rates are affected.
Tuesday’s court decision is the latest chapter in a long-standing battle over how for-profit utilities in Missouri must add renewable energy to their generating portfolios. And it may not be over yet.
Ameren Missouri and other utilities that challenged the PSC rules may seek a rehearing or try to get the state Supreme Court to take up the case.
An official with Missouri Energy Development Association, the utility lobby in the state, wasn’t available Tuesday afternoon. An Ameren Missouri spokeswoman said the utility had no immediate comment and said the utility was still reviewing the court opinion.
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