Missouri Utility Garners Regulatory Support For 600 MW Wind Plan

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The Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) has announced its support for the Empire District Electric Co.’s plan to develop an additional 600 MW of wind energy.

According to the MPSC, Empire’s proposed customer savings plan (CSP) involves the development of wind energy using federal tax incentives in conjunction with a tax equity partner.

Based upon a thorough review of the evidence in the case, the commission has granted Empire certain accounting and depreciation treatment related to the CSP, as well as a variance from the MPSC’s affiliate transaction rule.

The MPSC determined that Empire had presented credible and persuasive evidence that the CSP, if implemented as contemplated in the joint position filed by several parties in the case, would generate customer savings of approximately $169 million over 20 years and approximately $295 million over 30 years, relative to Empire’s current resource plan, and would significantly reduce financial risk for Empire’s customers. The commission noted that the millions of dollars in customer savings and the addition of renewable energy resulting from the CSP and the joint position could be of considerable benefit to Empire’s customers and the entire state.

Based out of Joplin, Empire serves approximately 151,700 electric customers in Missouri. Last year, the utility proposed a plan to develop an additional 800 MW of wind generation in or near its service territory by the end of 2020. The company filed its request for approval with regulators in Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. According to a local report from the Joplin Globe, Empire has since agreed to trim down the wind proposal to 600 MW and push back its plan to close a coal plant, as well.

“We are pleased to announce that the MPSC has issued an order supporting our customer savings plan, an exciting new initiative that results in the addition of 600 MW of wind energy to be located within the Southwest Power Pool footprint,” says David Swain, central region president for Liberty Utilities, the parent company of Empire. “With this support, we can begin to move in a direction that will save money for our customers while providing a sustainable source of safe, reliable and clean energy. We are eager to continue working with commissioners as we move toward the successful completion of this initiative.”

“It is the public policy of this state to diversify the energy supply through the support of renewable and alternative energy sources,” says the MPSC. “In past decisions, the commission has stated its support in general for renewable energy generation, which provides benefits to the public. Empire’s proposed acquisition of 600 MW of additional wind generation assets is clearly aligned with the public policy of the commission and this state.”

The Joplin Globe report notes, however, that Empire needs more approvals to bring the plan to fruition:

“[I]t is premature for this commission to make a legal conclusion that Empire’s decision to acquire wind generation using a tax equity partner is reasonable,” the MPSC says.

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