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July 19, 2008

Green-energy mandate could be on ballot

By Andy Ostmeyer

aostmeyer@joplinglobe.com

Missouri voters can expect to decide in November if the state’s investor-owned utilities should be required to generate or purchase electricity from wind, solar, biomass or small hydro equal to at least 2 percent of their retail sales by 2011.

If passed, the requirement ratchets up to 15 percent by 2021, with at least 2 percent of that coming from solar energy. The proposal also limits the rate impact to 1 percent per year.

More than half of all states now have the so-called Renewable Portfolio Standards, which require utilities to get a certain percentage of their power from renewable sources. Some states have had the mandates in place for more than a decade.

But Southwest Missouri residents will escape the impact of the initiative petition that would require investor-owned utilities in the state to boost their use of green power.

That’s because Empire District Electric Co. already is on its way to meeting the top requirement outlined in the mandate and also was recently exempted from the one piece of the proposal that Empire officials said could have pushed up costs for ratepayers in the area. Empire is the only investor-owned utility in Southwest Missouri. Other area residents are served by cooperatives or municipal power providers, which will not be bound by the mandates.

The push for renewables is being led by Missourians for Cleaner Cheaper Energy, which in May turned in about 170,000 signatures — 90,000 were needed — for the Clean Energy Initiative to the Missouri Secretary of State’s office. That office is verifying signatures, but that isn’t expected to be a stumbling block, said Warren Wood, executive director of the Missouri Energy Development Association, which represents investor-owned utilities in Missouri.

“We think there is a good chance it will go on the ballot and the polling data we’ve seen indicates support for it if it gets on the ballot this fall,” Wood said.

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