(Jefferson City) — Renewable energy advocates are pushing the state to allow more utility-scale solar development, and have filed a petition with the Public Service Commission to make it happen.

The group Renew Missouri filed a petition this week asking the PSC to change its rules that currently cap at low levels the amount non-utility companies can sell onto the electrical grid.

James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, wants the PSC to increase the cap 20-fold, maintaining it’ll be a win-win.

“That will be very good for the utility companies,” he states. “That will give them more diversity with the power they receive. It will be good for the customers because there’s more reliability. And we believe it will be good for the solar industry here in Missouri.”

Regulators were in the process of raising the caps but everything got put on hold while the PSC itself is being moved into the new Department of Commerce and Insurance this summer.

When similar rules were changed in North Carolina, private solar companies invested more than $7.75 billion in the state, employing more than 6,500 people.

Owen says that contrasts with the private solar industry in Missouri, which has invested about $550 million and supports more than 2,800 jobs.

Owen says he hopes the utilities will be open to a renewable energy future.

“I believe it’s low because utility companies have up ’til recently been very adverse to solar,” he states. “They’ve been very adverse to wind.

“I think they’ve worked to make those rules incredibly low. But now they’re becoming more open to renewable energy, so we’re hoping that regulators will change that.”

In 2008, voters passed an initiative that required the state’s utilities to get 15% of their energy from renewable sources by 2015, and most have met that goal.

Advocates are considering whether to sponsor a ballot initiative in 2020 that would raise the goal to 50% by 2040 or 100% by 2050.


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