By Wally Kennedy
Shareholders with Empire District Electric Co. will vote during their annual meeting today in Joplin on a Missouri Sierra Club resolution to support energy efficiency.
The resolution was put before the shareholders by Sierra Club member Jim Evans, of Republic, an Empire customer and shareholder.
Evans said: “Through energy efficiency measures, I cut my monthly electric bill in half. What happens when 50,000 customers do the same? History is littered with companies that failed to adapt to market changes. I propose this resolution as a wake-up call to investors. We need to embrace change and invest in energy efficiency.”
Harry Alper, a Sierra Club organizer, said: “It would lower bills and stabilize rates for Empire customers, as well as create local jobs. Empire lags behind other utilities in the state. Ameren Missouri and KCP&L-Greater Missouri Operations already have such programs in place.”
If a majority of Empire’s shareholders support the resolution, the company would be obligated to prepare a report that outlines opportunities to increase efficiency, Alper said.
Alper said Empire has yet to implement a comprehensive energy efficiency program as allowed under the 2009 Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act.
The Legislature passed the act with the goal of reducing the demand for electricity by allowing the state’s four investor-owned utilities, including Empire, to recoup from customers the costs of subsidizing energy-efficient products and services.
Amy Bass, spokeswoman for Empire, said the company’s board of directors is recommending that stockholders vote against the proposal.
The board issued a statement that, in part, states: “The board has considered the proposal that Empire issue a report on actions it is taking or could take to reduce risk throughout its energy portfolio by pursuing all cost effective energy efficiency resources, and believes that the preparation of such a report would not provide additional benefit to Empire or its stockholders.”
Empire offers some efficiency benefits now and intends to submit a plan for efficiency benefits under the Missouri act this fall.
Alper said that if Empire adopts an energy efficiency program, residential and commercial customers could receive subsidies from the company for the purchase of fluorescent light bulbs and energy retrofits to reduce usage. Customers also could get a rebate for the purchase of efficient water heaters and air conditioners.
Alper said an ambitious energy efficiency program would reduce pollution associated with the burning of coal.
The resolution is unrelated to Empire’s recent filing of its annual Renewable Energy Standard Compliance Plan with the Missouri Public Service Commission. That plan shows how the company is responding to Proposition C, which Missouri voters passed in November 2008.
The law requires that investor-owned utilities by 2021 produce or buy no less than 15 percent of their electricity from renewable resources like wind, biomass and solar — 2 percent of which must come from solar photovoltaics.
Empire, which has about 147,200 electric customers in Missouri, has been criticized for allegedly not complying with the law by Renew Missouri, a residents group that crafted Proposition C for the ballot.
Renew Missouri and seven other environmental organizations asked the PSC in January to review the actions of the utility. The PSC staff has been directed to examine Empire’s plan and file a report of its review no later than May 30.
The Office of the Public Counsel and any other interested people or entities have until May 30 to file comments regarding Empire’s plan — case number E0-2013-0458 — with the PSC. For details, the PSC can be reached at 573-751-9300.
THE SIERRA CLUB will hold a news conference on its shareholder resolution at 10 a.m. today in the Birch Room at the Joplin Holiday Inn, 3615 S. Range Line Road. Scheduled to speak are Harry Alper, a Sierra Club organizer; Jim Evans, a Sierra Club member, and Empire District customer and shareholder; and Willy Crane, owner of Crane Home Energy Consulting in Joplin.