Senators opt for target, instead of mandate, on renewable energy

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The goal would not apply to municipal and cooperative utilities, which supply electricity.

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. -- The Republican-led Senate shot down a proposed mandate that electric utilities make more use of renewable energy sources, instead endorsing a bill Monday that would set goals for only certain utilities to try to meet.

Democrats and Republicans alike this year are touting the need to tap into renewable energy sources, such as the sun, wind, water and agricultural products. But Republicans are reluctant to set a requirement, which is preferred by many Democrats, because of fears it could lead to higher costs.

A Democratic amendment to require all electric utilities to get at least 10 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2021 was defeated on a 22-10 vote, with Sen. Frank Barnitz of Lake Spring, the only Democrat voting in opposition with Republicans.

Senators by voice vote then gave first-round approval to the underlying bill by Sen. Chris Koster, R-Harrisonville, which directs the state's four investor-owned utilities to "make a good-faith effort" to get 10 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020.

Investor-owned utilities

Those investor-owned utilities -- AmerenUE, Kansas City Power & Light Co., Aquila Inc. and The Empire District Electric Co. -- serve more than 1.8 million customers, about 63 percent of all electricity customers statewide, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

The goal would not apply to municipal and cooperative utilities, which supply electricity to the rest of Missouri.

"Targets, rather than mandates, are preferable because we don't know what the economic impacts of mandates would be," said Chuck Caisley, president of the Missouri Energy Development Association, whose members include the investor-owned utilities.

Twenty-one states already have some sort of mandate or target for the use of renewable energy sources by utilities.

The Missouri chapter of the Sierra Club said the goals in some states have not been too effective at achieving a greater reliance on renewable energy sources.

"We feel the mandates are required to really push renewable energy forward," said Carla Klein, director of the state Sierra Club.

Planning ahead

Koster said his self-titled "Green Power Initiative" is a prudent, cost-effective way to gradually increase the use of renewable energy sources. It sets a goal of selling 3 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2012 -- a mark Caisley said could already be met. The bill sets a 7 percent goal by 2015 and increases to 10 percent five years later.

"Missouri is not among the forefront of environmentally progressive states," Koster said while explaining the goal to colleagues, "and I've been cautious in crafting this bill not to make it too aggressive."

Energy bill is SB915.

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