Empire can now move forward with wind energy program

Source: By Stacie Strader, KOAM • Posted: Thursday, July 12, 2018

The Missouri Public Service Commission voted 5-0 today to allow Liberty Utilities – Empire District Electric to move forward with various regulatory measures to add wind energy to its sources of power.

In October of 2017, Empire District filed with regulators to expand its wind energy resources. The company wanted an additional 800 megawatts of wind energy by the end of 2020. They also planned to close its coal-fired plant in Asbury. KOAM/FOX 14 has reached out to Empire District for additional details. (Read more on the original story here)

Today’s settlement agreement will allow the Joplin-based Empire District to build a 600 megawatt wind farm to service customers in Southwest Missouri. It will be located within the Southwest Power Pool. The company’s financial modeling estimates customer savings of up to $300 million over the next 30 years.

“We are pleased to announce that the MPSC has issued an order supporting our Customer Savings Plan, an exciting new initiative that results in the addition of 600 MW of wind energy to be located within the Southwest Power Pool footprint. With this support, we can begin to move in a direction that will save money for our customers while providing a sustainable source of safe, reliable, and clean energy. We are eager to continue working with commissioners as we move toward the successful completion of this initiative,”? said David Swain, Central Region President, Liberty Utilities – Empire District.

Renew Missouri, a not-for-profit group focused on renewable energy in the Show-Me-State, says today’s decision is a step in the right direction.

“This is not only a win for renewable energy,” says Executive Director James Owen, “this is a win for the local economy in Southwest Missouri. More and more, large companies are basing their decision on locating to areas where they have access to sustainable energy. We have seen businesses invest in neighboring states like Iowa – where the government and utilities have committed to wind power production – while leaving Missouri in the dust.” The decision today, Owen adds, hopefully begins to move Missouri into becoming more economically advantageous.

Owen notes the original plan submitted by Empire District called for the shuttering of a coal plant in Southwest Missouri. “While we remain in favor of moving away from dirty power to clean power, we also recognized there were some parties that insisted on keeping this open even though the wind farm would more than compensate for any job losses. This is still a plus for the state, and that’s what matters to us.”

“There are also numerous benefits to ratepayers in general. States such as Colorado have shown wind production is so inexpensive that it’s cheaper for customers to have a plant close and to build a wind farm than to simply leave the plant open. Wind is becoming more reliable and more reasonable,” Owen says. “It makes a lot of sense from the perspective of a household budget.”

Renew Missouri officials say the plan submitted by Empire District faced obstacles, specifically from the State of Missouri’s Office of Public Counsel and the City of Joplin. “These parties relied on a lot of bogus science and flimsy economic arguments to help keep Missouri’s economy in the dark ages. We are glad the PSC was able to see through that and make the right decision.”