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The Missouri Sierra Club, now a shareholder in the state’s largest utility, filed a resolution on Friday that seeks to force a substantial increase in renewable energy.
Compared to utilities across Missouri and in adjacent states, Ameren Missouri “stands out as being underinvested in wind and solar,” said John Hickey, the Missouri Sierra Club’s chapter director. “That’s really what’s driving this.”
He said that about 1 percent of Ameren’s energy is produced by renewables, compared to about 12 percent of the energy sold by Kansas City Power & Light. In Iowa, about 28 percent of the state’s electrical power is generated from renewable sources.
The resolution should receive a vote at Ameren’s next shareholder meeting, to be held late next April.
The Sierra Club is a member of RE-AMP, which publishes Midwest Energy News.
The resolution would require that by 2030, Ameren generate at least 30 percent of its power from wind or solar sources. Presently, Ameren must comply with the state’s renewable-energy standard, which is 15 percent by 2021.
“We want Ameren to think beyond 2021,” Hicket said. “As far as utility planning horizons, that’s not that far off.”
Steve Whitworth, the company’s senior director for environmental policy and analysis, sent the following e-mail:
“Ameren Missouri is making the transition to cleaner energy in the most affordable way for our customers. For years, we have been executing our 20-year energy plan that is supported by stakeholders throughout Missouri. Our plan includes different kinds of electric generation such as renewables, natural gas, hydro and nuclear. It takes into consideration factors such as costs, risks, fuel diversity, customer preferences and economic development opportunities. We absolutely support cleaner energy.
Recent additions to Ameren Missouri’s system to provide cleaner electricity include the O’Fallon Renewable Energy Center, the largest investor-owned solar energy facility in Missouri; wind generation; and the Maryland Heights Renewable Energy Center, one of the nation’s largest landfill-gas to clean-energy facilities.”
The resolution’s timeline converges with that of the Clean Power Plan, the recently-released federal rule that requires reductions in carbon emissions from existing power plants. Under that plan, now being challenged in court, Missouri would be required to reduce power-plant carbon emissions by about 21 percent from the 2012 level.
“We think it’s helpful to have multiple drivers to move towards clean energy,” Hickey said. “The Clean Power Plan is a critical tool, but we think it’s also critical for private industry to move ahead. In St. Louis, we have an Ikea with a huge solar (array) on the roof. They didn’t do that because the CPP requires it. They are an extremely successful business, and they know clean energy is a good business decision as well.
“We want Ameren to start planning now on how to reach that 30 percent as a floor by 2030.”
Ameren’s energy efficiency program also has been in the spotlight of late. In October, the Missouri Public Service Commission rejected the projected benefits Ameren proposed for the years 2016-2018. The regulatory body said it didn’t trust Ameren’s calculation of how much in sales it had lost due to customers’ greater efficiency. Utilities are allowed to recoup revenues lost for that reason.
But Hickey said the shareholder resolution was in the works long before Ameren’s efficiency plan became the subject of dispute. The Sierra Club started planning to introduce a shareholder resolution soon after it became a shareholder a couple years ago.
In order to file a shareholder resolution, Hickey said, “You have to own shares for a couple years. This is first year we’ll be eligible to do that. We had a club member who inherited Ameren stock when her mother passed away, [which] she donated to the club so that we could participate.
“The last couple years we’ve attended meetings and have voted on other resolutions. This will be the first year we’re able to submit something directly ourselves.”
The company may recommend to its shareholders whether to vote for against a given shareholder proposition.
And there’s also the possibility – at least in theory – of a negotiated settlement between Ameren and the Sierra Club, according to Hickey.
“Maybe there is a way to come together on this before next April,” he said. “But our expectation is that this will go to the shareholders, and they’ll get a chance to weigh in.”
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