Advocates say advancing clean energy policy at the Missouri legislature is next to impossible, so they'll turn to the ballot process again.

Missouri Division of Tourism / Creative Commons

Advocates say advancing clean energy policy at the Missouri legislature is next to impossible, so they'll turn to the ballot process again.

Missouri clean-energy group plans initiative on November 2016 ballot

Given substantial support for clean energy in a recent poll, a Missouri advocacy group has decided to craft a clean-energy initiative to submit for the state’s November 2016 ballot.

Renew Missouri, which organized the 2008 initiative campaign that resulted in a renewable energy standard for the state, now is deciding what measures to include on a ballot measure next year. Possibilities include a more ambitious renewable energy standard, a solar tax credit, mandatory energy efficiency, or changes in policy with regard to net metering and power-purchase agreements.

A polling firm hired by Renew Missouri asked respondents about 11 clean-energy issues. Support ranged from 50 to 76 percent, with eight of the issues snagging at least 63 percent support. A ballot measure could include any, or even all, of the items on the questionnaire.

“The public supports changing clean-energy policy in Missouri,” said Renew Missouri’s executive director, PJ Wilson. “We’re cooking up language that we hope hits the strike zone – that’s popular and strong enough and likely to result in new waves of investment in clean energy in Missouri.”

Many corporations also are in the market for clean energy. According to a report recently issued by Advanced Energy Economy, at least 16 large corporations doing business in Missouri have expressed a desire for more renewable energy.

The survey of 600 people was conducted in September by Research for Change, a small polling firm run by Mark Meringer. It is the same polling firm that conducted a survey before Proposition C was put on the ballot in 2008. The 2007 poll indicated that 66 percent of those surveyed supported passing a renewable standard. The initiative was in fact approved by 66 percent of voters.

Wilson said Renew Missouri decided to start exploring the possibility of another initiative because of what he describes as persistent roadblocks in the Missouri General Assembly.

During the 2015 legislative session, for example, a bill was introduced to increase access to net metering. It was heard in committee and then, according to Wilson, given over to utilities for feedback. The ensuing bill actually inserted greater restrictions, and “made a mockery of net metering,” Wilson said.

“What’s shocking is that the public support is so strong, but it’s so weak with legislators. We don’t have prospects of meaningful legislation passing with the makeup that is there now.”

The Missouri General Assembly has proven not only resistant to passing laws promoting renewable energy and efficiency, but has also scaled back some of the few clean-energy bills that have passed. A legislative committee in 2010 made a ruling that undermined Proposition C, the 2008 initiative that created a renewable energy standard.

The renewable energy standard did enable the payment of $200 million in solar incentives, Wilson said. But because of the legislature’s interpretation of the proposition, Wilson said, no wind energy has been developed. And the state’s largest utilities stopped paying solar rebates fairly soon after starting, claiming that they had reached a spending cap that was part of the proposition.

“We probably are not going to get any more mileage out of Proposition C,” Wilson said.

Ballot language must be filed with the secretary of state by Dec. 1. If it’s approved, ballot supporters must gather signatures from registered voters and turn them in to the secretary of state by May 8. A change in the law would require valid signatures from about 100,000 voters, Wilson said. A change to the state constitution would require about 160,000.

The initiative process “is one way around the logjam in Jefferson City,” Wilson said. “The exciting thing is that the ballot process in alive in Missouri.”

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