‘Power To The People’ Initiative Would Offer Cleaner Energy Future For Missouri

by P.J. Wilson

Are you sick of rate increases on your Missouri electric bill?  Then it’s time to step up and support a new initiative for renewable energy.  The Power to the People initiative will result in a cleaner energy future for Missouri, and it’ll also put a stop to the senseless rate increases we’re constantly being subjected to.  How does that sound?

First, let’s set the historical record straight.  In 2008, over a million Missourians (66%) voted in favor of Proposition C, a statewide ballot initiative that required our biggest utilities to ramp up to getting 15% of their electricity from renewable sources by the year 2020.  In 2011, utilities pressured the legislature into neutering this popular new law, and interpret it instead as raising Missouri rates to pay for something useless to Missourians: already-existing renewable energy projects in other states and other countries that deliver no power to Missouri, and never will.  Huh?

Coal power plants are aging, and we’ve got to do something about it. Missouri utilities could be investing in what is indisputably the cheapest form of power — energy efficiency — and free fuel — renewable energy.  But they’re not doing it.

Don’t be fooled by billboards of wind turbines and children running in the fields.  While Illinois and Kansas race towards 25% and 20% renewable energy requirements, and Iowa achieved 27% last year, Missouri utilities banded together to squash the 2008 initiative. So today we’re still under 2% renewable energy, and NOT rising.  It doesn’t make me proud to be a Missourian.

I am, however, a proud supporter of the Power to the People initiative.  While the 2008 initiative required 15% renewables by 2020, this one requires 25% by 2025 and adds the requirement that utilities capture all cost-effective energy efficiency.  And there’s a lot of cheap, achievable efficiency; Arizona has a requirement to meet 20% of its power needs in 2020 by investing in energy efficiency alone. Missouri has even more potential.  The initiative also funds an office in Jefferson City to review, on behalf of all Missourians, every line item in every rate case; such scrutiny currently does not exist today, thus rate increases go largely unchecked.

So here are our options. We can either do nothing, and be subjected to another 40% rate increase over the next 5 years like we’ve had over the last 5 years, with this money doing nothing to advance our state, while our neighbors protect ratepayers and move their economies forward.

Or, we can support the Power to the People initiative and put Missouri on a clear track to capture the cleanest, cheapest forms of power available.  Doing so will mean putting Missourians (back) to work, installing clean energy projects around the state, and providing incentives for ratepayers to invest in efficiency and clean power. The choice is ours.

PJ Wilson is the director of Columbia-based Renew Missouri, whose mission is to transform Missouri into a leading state in energy efficiency and renewable energy.  For more information visit www. renewmissouri.org.