- The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) on Wednesday approved a scaled-back version of Empire District Electric's wind program, signing off on 600 MW of new renewable resources instead of 800 MW the utility proposed last fall, according to The Joplin Globe.
- The approval also delays the closure of Empire's Asbury coal plant, following an April agreement between the utility and several other parties.
- The proposal to close Asbury followed the declining price of renewables; utility officials last year said the Asbury coal plant provided electricity at about $38/MWh, compared with $24/MWh for wind. Switching to wind was predicted to result in more than $300 million in savings over two decades.
The commission's decision was hailed by renewables advocates in the state, highlighting the staying power of coal-fired power plants.
According to The Joplin Globe, the modified wind program was approved following an agreement between the utility and several other parties, including commission staff, the Midwest Energy Consumers Group and Renew Missouri. All were on board with delaying the coal plant's closure.
Following the PSC decision, Renew Missouri issued a statement calling it a boon to Southwest Missouri's local economy. "More and more, large companies are basing their decision on locating to areas where they have access to sustainable energy," the group said.
As originally proposed, the wind project was projected to mean cost savings of $150 to $300 million over two decades. It still requires approval in Arkansas and Kansas as well as a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity if it is to be built in Missouri.
Empire has been taking other tacks as well to reduce emissions. The utility has encouraged customers to consider electric vehicles, and has committed to invest at least 5% of its annual vehicle fleet budget in EVs and plug-in technologies.