Empire District Electric Co. seeks to retire coal plant early as it adds wind generation

Recent moves by utilities across the state show utility-scale renewable energy may be beginning to build momentum in Missouri.

Just weeks after the St. Louis-based Ameren announced its largest-ever foray into renewables with plans to spend $1 billion on 700 megawatts of wind generation by 2020, a southwest Missouri utility has unveiled its own proposal to add 800 megawatts of wind over the same time frame.

But the plan filed with state regulators by Empire District Electric Co. goes one step further than Ameren’s. As it adds wind generation, Empire, which serves customers around Joplin and Springfield, Mo., simultaneously plans to retire its coal-fired Asbury Power Plant by April 2019, more than a decade ahead of schedule. Asbury, a 198-megawatt facility near the Kansas border, supplies just under 15 percent of the utility’s total generating capacity.

That combination — swapping out more costly and uncompetitive coal plants still on the books with new, cheaper wind — reflects a key dilemma facing utilities across the state, and even around the country.

Empire’s proposed shift from coal to wind is projected to save customers approximately $325 million over 20 years, or nearly $10 per month for an average residential power user.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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