Renewable energy on the ballot in Missouri

Friday, October 24, 2008 | 12:00 p.m. CDT; updated 10:07 a.m. CDT, Wednesday, October 29, 2008

This election, Missouri voters will have the opportunity to secure clean, renewable energy and more energy independence for our state. Backed by the names of 163,000 Missourians, a statewide Clean Energy Initiative has been certified by the Secretary of State and will appear on the November ballot as Proposition C.

The initiative requires the investor-owned utilities AmerenUE, Kansas City Power & Light, Aquila and Empire to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. The initiative defines renewable energy as wind, solar, biomass (not to be confused with corn ethanol) and small hydropower.

A vast majority of Missourians support the Clean Energy Initiative because Proposition C works for our economy, for Missouri schools, for public health and for the environment, while protecting consumers from high-energy costs. Kansas City Power & Light also announced its support earlier this year, joining a diverse coalition of labor, public health, environmental and faith-based organizations that endorse Proposition C, including the United Steelworkers, Restoring Eden: Christians for Environmental Stewardship and Republicans for Environmental Protection.

Twenty-six states have already adopted similar clean energy policies and are currently benefiting from cleaner, cheaper electricity created through renewable energy projects. Their success has paved the way for Missouri's own Clean Energy Initiative.

With Missouri's abundant renewable resources and strength in the technology sector, our state is poised to become a national leader in clean energy. That means developing the technology behind clean energy, building the infrastructure to support it, manufacturing the components to drive it and providing the workforce to run it — all jobs that will revitalize Missouri's economy.

This opportunity comes as good news as total employment in the manufacturing industry in Missouri declines. Investment in clean energy connects our industrial base to a sustainable future and creates Missouri manufacturing jobs. Proposition C will further stimulate our state's economy by adding tax revenue locally as well as statewide. As already evidenced by the wind farms built in Missouri in the past few years, clean energy developments have a direct, positive impact on local school districts. Last September, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch wrote about the success of a local wind farm on in Gentry County. According to the article, "The 9,000-acre Bluegrass Ridge Farm is slated to pay more than $500,000 in property taxes next year to Gentry County, the largest share of which will go to the King City School District."

Eighty-two percent of Missouri's electricity currently comes from polluting coal-fired power plants. Particulate matter from coal power plants is linked to asthma and lung disease. Coal plants also emit mercury, a toxic metal that causes developmental brain defects in children. In fact, women and children are warned to avoid eating fish from many Missouri waters because of mercury contamination. Under Proposition C, clean energy derived from wind and solar power will begin to replace fossil fuels for a cleaner, healthier future for Missouri families and the environment.

Because of the increasing costs of fossil fuels and the likely imposition of constraints on greenhouse gas emissions, Proposition C would produce net savings to electricity customers over time as clean energy begins to replace coal. As an added guarantee, the Clean Energy Initiative includes an ongoing rate cap that provides the best protection for consumers than any other state. The bottom line: Proposition C will protect ratepayers from impending spikes in the costs of fossil fuels, saving Missouri consumers a cumulative total of $331 million over the next 20 years.

In November, Missourians will have the opportunity to choose clean, renewable energy and take a critical first step toward a secure energy future. Proposition C, the Clean Energy Initiative, represents a true win-win situation for all Missourians as we lessen our dependence on out-of-state coal and gain critical new jobs, new businesses and new revenues for Missouri.

It's time for Missouri to join the 26 states that have already enacted a renewable energy standard and are reaping the benefits of energy independence and economic growth.

Erin Noble is energy policy and outreach coordinator for the Missouri Coalition for the Environment.

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John Schultz October 24, 2008 | 1:32 p.m.

A 1% rate cap means that anything above and beyond the cost of providing the "clean" energy would hit the companies, their shareholders, and employees in the pocketbook.

The 2% mandate for solar, as opposed to any renewable energy source, also locks in utilities to what could become a less-efficient energy source. For example, if wind turbine techology increases such that it becomes much cheaper than solar energy, the utilities would still have their hands tied by the solar mandate.

If this is such a good idea, why didn't the backers try to force it on municipal supplies and electric cooperatives as well?

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