Seizing the clean energy opportunity: Missouri’s time to shine
In a state where resilience and self-sufficiency have always been hallmarks, embracing clean energy is about our ability to adapt, thrive and lead (Scott Olson/Getty Images).
A shift is underway in the landscape of America’s utilities, and Missouri cannot afford to be left behind.
For years, electric companies across the nation cited cost concerns in their resistance to clean energy. But that should be the case no longer, thanks to new federal opportunities. More of Missouri’s utilities must decide that embracing clean energy from sources like wind and solar is not just an environmental imperative, but an economic development tool waiting to be tapped.
Take the Kansas City-based Evergy, which has taken action to decrease its reliance on coal and increase its renewables-based energy generation. In 2018, Evergy closed some of its coal plants and increased its wind production while working with businesses to attract new development through renewable access. At one time, Evergy planned to reach net zero emissions by 2045.
But recently, Evergy has backtracked on its commitments to renewable energy by stating it will continue relying on dirty, expensive fossil fuels like gas. This backward slide is disappointing but does not need to be the end of the story.
The Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 is the real game-changer for Missouri’s utilities, if they will seize the moment. Missouri can not only embrace change but thrive in the new clean energy era. With a staggering $391 billion allocated for environmental measures, the IRA promises to drive down carbon emissions by 40% by 2030.
Solar deployment is expected to skyrocket, going from 10 gigawatts of capacity added per year to potentially more than 100 GW per year by 2030. For perspective, one GW can power 876,000 homes.
The policy also offers tangible incentives for homeowners, renters and businesses. Rural communities, often left behind in clean energy advancements, stand to benefit significantly. With the federal government covering up to $970 million in clean energy project costs, rural electric co-ops are primed to make the shift towards clean energy without undue financial burden to themselves or their customers.
This new industrial policy will bring an estimated $6.6 billion of investment in large-scale clean power generation and storage to Missouri between now and 2030. Our 40 rural electric cooperatives, serving 760,000 Missourians, could seize this unique opportunity to modernize the grid in areas that need it most.
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Missouri’s co-ops can use these funds to replace coal-fired power plants with renewable energy, battery storage, and improved infrastructure. But it’s crucial to emphasize that this isn’t just about the industry’s bottom line. It’s about the people of Missouri. Rate increases, especially in rural areas already grappling with persistent poverty, are a heavy burden. These programs can keep energy bills manageable and ensure that ratepayers don’t bear the brunt of transitioning to clean energy.
This transition is also a catalyst for job creation.
IRA investments are poised to generate around 90,000 new jobs over the next decade, a much-needed boost for rural economies. Remember that Missouri currently imports its coal from Wyoming, which doesn’t support jobs here. With these federal funds at hand, Missouri can become a producer of energy. It’s also important to note that businesses with sustainability goals will move to areas where they can take advantage of clean energy. Missouri will not attract these businesses unless we have utilities ready to make these investments.
In a state where resilience and self-sufficiency have always been hallmarks, embracing clean energy is about our ability to adapt, thrive and lead. The Missouri of tomorrow can be powered by innovation, driven by economics and defined by a desire to meet the demands of a modern world.
Let us not be remembered as the generation that hesitated and clung to the past, but as the one that embraced change and ushered in a brighter, cleaner future for all.
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