Ameren Missouri’s Future Is in Clean Energy

Wind turbines in rural Missouri

Carol M. Highsmith via Flickr

Ameren Missouri recently released an ambitious long-term strategic plan (Integrated Resource Plan or IRP) that will significantly cut carbon emissions and invest in renewable energy resources like wind, solar and storage. The utility is following a national trend of heavily fossil fuel dependent utilities across the country setting net-zero carbon reduction targets and investing heavily in renewable energy.

Having already achieved their Paris climate target (5 years early) Ameren Missouri is raising their incremental carbon reduction goals. Previously, the 2050 carbon reduction target for the utility was an 80 percent reduction compared to 2005 levels. The 2020 IRP seeks to surpass that goal by 5 percent, 10 years sooner. The updated 2050 goal is net-zero.

2017 Ameren Missouri IRP Targets2020 Ameren Missouri IRP Targets
35% Carbon Reduction by 203050% Carbon Reduction by 2030
50% Carbon Reduction by 204085% Carbon Reduction by 2040
80% Carbon Reduction by 2050Net-Zero Carbon Emissions by 2050

If Ameren Missouri’s 2017 IRP was wading into the pool of carbon reduction, then their 2020 IRP jumps in the deep end. The 2020 IRP expands upon the commitments set in 2017 by moving up their carbon targets, investing in renewables, and retiring uneconomic coal-fired power plants sooner than previously planned.

Ameren Missouri’s targets track with a pattern of utilities, cities, and states across the United States taking climate goals into their own hands, absent of federal policy or ambition. As of 2019, 1 in 3 Americans live in a city or state with a net-zero emissions or 100 percent clean energy target. In fact, Ameren Missouri now joins more than twenty large utilities with net-zero emission targets. Of the ten largest coal-fired power plants in the United States, eight are run by companies with ambitious or net-zero emissions targets.

As the eighth largest owner of coal capacity, Ameren Missouri’s renewable investment targets also represent a big step in the right direction.

Clean energy and energy efficiency investments of more than $5 billion in the next ten years will help our region's economic recovery, with energy efficiency and demand response programs saving the equivalent of two large power plants.

The shift to renewable energy is paired with an updated timeline for coal-fired power plant closures, retiring certain plants 5 years earlier than previously scheduled. Pairing renewable energy build with coal plant retirement not only reduces carbon emissions, mitigating the harmful impacts of climate change, but also protects customers, ensuring ratepayers are not paying to maintain uneconomic coal plants as the utility invests in clean energy generation.

Ameren Missouri’s Sioux Energy Center

Tom Peterson via Flickr

When comparing Ameren Missouri’s 2020 IRP targets to the 15 largest coal-owning utilities, their goals are on par with their peers, falling behind several who have set a date by which to eliminate coal from their energy mix entirely. Ameren Missouri’s 2020 IRP leaves coal fired power generation in the energy mix through 2040. Complimentary state policies could see Ameren Missouri set its own coal elimination dates in the years to come.

If the State of Missouri were to pass policies such as securitization (a financing mechanism which allows for retirement and cost recovery of uneconomic coal-fired power plants), or other clean energy standards, we could see even these promising targets exceeded in the next few years.

Utilities across the nation are investing in the future and in clean energy. The breadth and depth of such commitments signals the impending end of the coal generated electricity. As clean energy targets are set and the policies which support them are passed, heavily polluting coal-fired power plants will not remain viable.

Another recent announcement indicates how the trend away from coal generated electricity is accelerating. Vistra, a Texas-based energy company, just announced that they will shutter all of their coal plants in Illinois and three other plants in Ohio while increasing investments in renewable energy. The writing on the wall couldn’t be clearer and a growing number of utilities are moving with the wave of cheaper and cleaner resources. Although Illinois and Ohio are in deregulated electric generation markets, and in very different economic contexts, the underlying viability of the coal generated electricity is collapsing quickly.

Ameren Missouri’s commitment is a huge step in the right direction, now we need the right set of policies to help them go even further.

About the Authors

Ashok Gupta

Senior Energy Economist, Climate & Clean Energy Program

Gabrielle Habeeb

Program Assistant, Climate & Clean Energy Program

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