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Legislative Review of Missouri Renewables Standard Highlights Wind Power’s Economic Benefits


3/7/2011 10:11 AM

Well-crafted legislation setting state renewable energy targets spurs job creation and economic development while helping to provide consumers with stable electricity prices.

That’s the message Missouri lawmakers received from expert testimony as they consider clarifications and improvements to the state’s renewable electricity standard (RES). Voters said “yes” more than two years ago to a renewable energy requirement, but the law has gotten snagged up in the details of its implementation, underscoring the need for clarification by the state legislature.

In a 2008 ballot initiative (Prop C), Missouri voters approved (by a 66 percent majority) a law requiring utilities to diversify their energy mix through a 15 percent renewable energy target. Implementing the law, however, has resulted in controversy and confusion, causing legislators to take up the matter during the current session. Among the issues, the Wind Coalition, an industry-supported trade association, is asking legislators to clarify the law’s “sold to Missouri” provision to ensure that the state’s electric customers do in fact receive renewable energy as intended by the law—and in the process, receive the economic development and risk protection benefits as well.

Testifying on behalf of the Wind Coalition before the House Committee on Renewable Energy, Jeff Reinkemeyer of Iberdrola Renewables outlined the benefits that his company’s 146-megawatt (MW) wind farm in Farmers City already provides Missouri. Just as wind farms are doing all across the country, the Iberdrola facility is infusing new tax funds into local jurisdictions and giving farmers and other landowners an added source of revenue, said Reinkemeyer. “Farmers City provides $600,000 to $1 million in annual local taxes and approximately $365,000 annually to landowners,” he said.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, Missouri’s 457 MW of wind generate $3 million dollars in annual property tax payments and $1.3 million dollars in annual land lease payments.

The economic benefits don’t stop there. The supply chain that feeds the wind power industry and allows it to build high-tech wind turbines migrates near to where wind farms are developed. A case in point is Missouri, where that trend has already been set in motion in spite of wind power development just getting under way there. By the end of 2009, the state had between 500 and 1,000 direct and indirect wind industry jobs, with a growing number of those jobs housed at the approximately seven facilities in the state currently manufacturing components for the wind energy industry. Two new facilities have also been announced.

A University of Missouri - St. Louis study in 2008 predicted Prop C and its RES would create 9,591 jobs and generate $2.86 billion in economic activity in Missouri over the next 20 years.

In a letter to legislators last week, Governor Nixon said:

“Clean, abundant, renewable energy is critical to the health of our state’s economy and environment. It is vital to creating jobs, to helping existing businesses expand, and to attracting new businesses to our state. We must seize every opportunity to secure Missouri’s future by embracing renewable energy today.

This is a decisive moment for Missouri; we are poised to realize our potential to become a leader in the development, production, use and export of renewable energy. It is imperative that we pass legislation now that moves renewable energy forward in Missouri.”

“The voters have spoken, and they want more renewable energy including wind power,” said Paul Sadler, executive director of the Wind Coalition. “Now it is time for the state legislature to build on the law already embraced by the people of Missouri so that the wind power industry can get to work and bring the jobs and economic development to the state. Wind energy is American—turbines are built here, and the wind that fuels them is an inexhaustible American resource. It’s time for Missouri to tap wind power, and tap its economic-development benefits.”

Missouri is one of 29 states with a state renewable electricity standard; another seven have renewable energy goals.