- Empire District Electric Co. has proposed a dramatic shift in how it generates energy, informing Missouri regulators that it wants to invest $1.5 billion in wind turbines while ultimately closing down its Asbury coal plant, the Joplin Globe reports
- By using an equity partnership that leverages federal tax incentives, Empire's total investment on the project would be just $700 million.
- The shift comes less than a year after Canada-based Algonquin Power & Utilities its $2.3 billion acquisition of Empire District. To get approval for the deal, Empire District agreed to freeze rates for two years in Kansas. The utility also operates in Missouri, Oklahoma, and Arkansas.
The Globe reports Empire District filed its proposal with regulators on Tuesday after seeing wind costs plummet 50% since it started making improvements at the Asbury coal plant.
Blake Mertens, vice president of Empire's electric operations, told the newspaper that its cost to generate coal power at Asbury is estimated to be $38/MWh, compared with $24/MWh for wind — adding up to more than $300 million in savings over two decades.
Wind Power Engineering reports an average customer will save almost $10/month over that period. Empire's wind expansion plan has been filed in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, according to the renewable energy website. A decision is expected by the middle of next year.
Empire has also been pushing for the adoption of electric vehicles, telling customers that fueling an EV is equivalent to paying about $1.25/gallon of gasoline. The utility has committed to invest at least 5% of its annual vehicle fleet budget in EVs and plug-in technologies.