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Columbia Missourian

Clean energy initiative makes ballot

By Chris Dunn, Joel Walsh
September 10, 2008 | 7:41 p.m. CDT

JEFFERSON CITY — Utility companies expressed concerns, but neutrality, after a Cole County Circuit judge ordered onto the November ballot a proposal that would impose renewable energy requirements on them.

Supporters of the "clean energy initiative" successfully challenged Secretary of State Robin Carnahan's ruling that they had failed to collect enough signatures to put the issue on the statewide ballot.

If approved by a majority vote, the proposal would require investor-owned utilities to produce or buy 15 percent of their electricity from renewable energy sources by 2021, while limiting consumer rate increases to 1 percent.

Acceptable energy sources, according to the official ballot title, would include wind and solar power, landfill gas, biomass and hydroelectricity.

Representatives with AmerenUE, one of Missouri's larger electric providers, said the utility has adopted a neutral stance to the proposition, but they cited concerns about the potential for rising costs.

"We are concerned about it because we believe it would result in higher rates for our customers," AmerenUE spokesman Tim Fox said.

But a more positive response came from Kansas City Power & Light.

"We believe that while it's a stretch goal to meet (the initiative's mandate of 15 percent usage), it's something we're already on a path to do, and it's something that we support," said Chuck Caisley, senior director of public affairs for KCP&L. "As part of our comprehensive energy plan, KCP&L is already aggressively pursuing renewable energy and energy efficiency."

Caisley said the utility plans to expand its renewable energy output by 300 percent - using mostly wind power - by 2021.

Caisley also noted the significance of the 1 percent limit on consumer rate increases. "It protects both utilities and consumers by ensuring that the cost of compliance and the associated rate impact is limited."

A representative for the organization that sponsored the petition campaign said the decision to circulate a petition in favor of the initiative was spurred by similar standards enacted in 26 other states.

"It's going to mean tens of thousands of jobs for the state and billions of dollars of economic development," said Jim Kottmeyer, a consultant with Missourians for Cleaner Cheaper Energy.

"It's home-grown energy," he added. "It's not energy we have to import from the Mideast; it's not energy we'd have to import from some other region of the country. It's energy we have right here in Missouri."

Kottmeyer said the 1 percent limit on consumer rate increases would cause electric bills to become cheaper in the long term.

"The voters of Missouri fundamentally get that we need to move toward clean alternative energy, and in doing so, create jobs and reduce their dependence on foreign energy," Kottmeyer said. "And that's the opportunity before us, and voters are going to get that choice come November, and we're grateful that this is something that's going to be put out there in front of the voters."

Kottmeyer's organization had collected about 163,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

To make the ballot, a petition changing state law must have a total number of signatures equal to 5 percent of the votes cast in the 2004 gubernatorial election in six of Missouri's nine congressional districts.

Election authorities in Missouri's 3rd Congressional District in eastern Missouri, which includes Jefferson and Ste. Genevieve counties, parts of St. Louis County and the city of St. Louis, claimed the petition initiative was 526 signatures short of the required number in the area .

However, Cole County Circuit Court Judge Richard Callahan ruled this week that there were enough signatures to put the issue on the ballot.