Weston, Mo. Missouri electric companies now have targets to shoot for in increasing their use of renewable resources, such as wind or solar power, to generate electricity.
Gov. Matt Blunt on Monday signed into law legislation encouraging, but not requiring, utilities to curb their use of fossil fuels over the next 13 years. Utilities not meeting those recommendations don't face any penalties, although state regulators can determine whether the companies tried hard enough.
Blunt signed the bill in front of Kansas City Power & Light's Iatan 2 generating station, an 850-megawatt plant under construction 25 miles northwest of Kansas City. The plant is part of an overall companywide plan, developed through a settlement with environmental groups, that includes building 500 megawatts of wind power in Kansas and increasing efficiency and pollution controls at the company's Iatan 1 and La Cygne, Kan., plants.
"Unfortunately, some believe that increased power generation must always come with some sort of environmental trade-off," Blunt said. "What we're celebrating here today demonstrates that's a false choice."
The measure would recommend that power companies use nonfossil fuel sources for 4 percent of produced electricity by 2012, a goal that would double in 2015 and reach 11 percent in 2020.
Supporters said the legislation encourages utilities to reduce their effect on the environment and ultimately save consumers money by reducing their use of energy.
In addition to the suggested benchmarks, the legislation requires utilities to grant consumers credits for power they generate themselves, such as with solar panels or biomass technology. It also allows cities to use yard waste to generate electricity with Department of Natural Resources approval.
Critics of the legislation say that setting goals isn't adequate and note that other states are requiring utilities to create a certain amount of power from wind, solar and other renewable energy sources.
Blunt said he thought the Public Service Commission, through its power to approve or deny requests to raise electric rates, will ensure "that those targets are not just empty objectives but are indeed met."
Mike Chesser, chairman of KCP&L and its parent company, Great Plains Energy Inc., said utilities are heavily invested in alternative energy because it will fill the gap as they wait for technological breakthroughs as such safer nuclear power and nonpolluting coal-fired plants.
"Voluntary incentives are shown to consistently work better than mandatory incentives," Chesser said of the new targets. "Once you have the heart and soul of a company involved, they're going to make it work."