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The electricity provider of many Missourians announced Monday the company plans to invest $8 billion into renewable energy and have net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.

Warren Wood, Ameren Missouri's vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs, told the News Tribune the plan is one for "transformational change" toward net-zero carbon emissions, which will involve closing down carbon-emitting energy sources and replacing them with renewable sources.

Carbon dioxide, or CO2, is one of the main greenhouse gases released by human activities — including the burning of fossil fuels — that contribute to climate change.

In 2017 — the most recent year for which data is available — energy-related sources of carbon dioxide in Missouri emitted 122-123 million metric tons of it, or almost 2.4 percent of such emissions for the U.S. as a whole, according to figures from the federal government's U.S. Energy Information Administration.

EIA defines energy-related sources to include electricity generation, as well as use in transportation, residential, commercial and industrial sectors.

More than 55 percent of Missouri's carbon dioxide emissions were generated by the production of electricity — and much of the rest, about 30 percent, was from transportation.

Nearly 200 nations pledged through a 2015 Paris climate agreement to set goals to cut emissions to prevent a 2-degree Celsius global temperature rise above pre-industrial levels this century, with an emphasis to limit the rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius, according to the United Nations.

The lower the temperature rise, the better that natural and human systems will be able to adapt, "with substantial benefits for a wide range of terrestrial, freshwater, wetland, coastal and ocean ecosystems (including coral reefs), as well as food production systems, human health and tourism, together with energy systems and transportation," according to the Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change's October 2018 report, "Global Warming of 1.5C."

The Trump administration began pulling the U.S. out of the Paris agreement last year, though the withdrawal does not become complete until the day after this November's election, the Associated Press has reported.

Regardless, Ameren's pledge Monday is "consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius," according to a news release from the company.

"Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time," Gwen Mizell, vice president of sustainability and electrification at Ameren, said in the news release. "Our transformative plan to add large amounts of wind and solar energy generation will ensure all customers, regardless of where they happen to live or their household income, have access to clean, reliable and affordable energy."

Ameren has operations in Missouri and Illinois. The company plans to cut its carbon emissions in half within the next 10 years — based on 2005 levels — and by 85 percent by 2040.

For Ameren Missouri, that means taking advantage of increasingly cheaper renewable energy options, such as solar and wind power, to add 3,100 megawatts of power production capacity through renewables by 2030.

The company wants a total of 5,400 megawatts from renewable energy sources by 2040.

Brad Brown, company public relations manager, said the current total power production capacity is 10,000 megawatts.

"Ameren Missouri projects the plan will create thousands of new construction jobs. The benefits of these investments extend through the local economy, leading to greater levels of opportunity for many, including diverse suppliers," according to the company's news release.

The most immediate steps involved will be closing some of Ameren Missouri's coal-fired power plants — beginning with its oldest and least-productive coal plant, Meramec Energy Center — and investing in wind.

More than 75 percent of the company's coal-fired capacity is expected to be retired by 2040, with the rest scheduled for retirement by 2042.

By fuel, 55 percent of Missouri's CO2 emissions came from the burning of coal, more than 33 percent from petroleum, and more than 11 percent from natural gas, according to the EIA.

Wood said Ameren Missouri also plans to seek extension of the license to operate the Callaway Energy Center nuclear plant.

Longer-term storage solutions for the radioactive waste produced have been implemented on site, he added.

Beyond efforts to replace carbon-emitting energy sources with renewables, Wood said the company will also look at storage, energy efficiency and carbon emissions offset options — the latter including reforestation and agricultural approaches — and new technologies.

Nearly 30 percent of Ameren Missouri's energy production already comes from renewable sources including nuclear, hydroelectric and solar, according to the company.

Company leaders including Ameren Missouri chairman and president Marty Lyons and Ameren Corporation chairman, president and CEO Warner Baxter said customers' energy costs will continue to remain affordable, as well as safe and reliable.

Wood said the company's plans for the next two decades do take into account possible widespread changes in electricity demand.

The governor of California announced last week the state would ban the sale of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks in 2035, the Associated Press reported.

Asked about plans in the face of potentially more destructive weather and more extreme temperature changes, Wood said the company is also "very much focused" on making its infrastructure more resilient.

"Our analysis shows that now is the time to capitalize on investment opportunities for the benefit of our customers, the communities where we raise our families and the environment," Lyons said in the company's news release.

Speaking to people who will be involved in such efforts in the future — students today who later may become engineers, linemen, customer service representatives and others — Wood said: "This is an exciting time to be in the energy sector," developing something that's key for people's quality of life.

Ameren Missouri's proposals were included in a plan submitted every three years to state regulators, according to the Associated Press.

The company's announcement included praise from The Nature Conservancy of Missouri and Natural Resources Defense Council, as well as social justice advocates and nonprofit service providers.

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