Time is running out to provide input on Missouri’s state energy plan.
The public comment period officially ends on Saturday, although the online form will likely remain available at least through the weekend.
Lewis Mills directs the state Division of Energy, which is developing the plan. He said so far, public comments have centered on a handful of themes.
"The one that we heard most often is increase the use of renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, while at the same time cutting back on the use of fossil fuels," Mills said. "That was by far the most common comment."
The second most frequent proposal was to increase energy efficiency.
Other comments have touched on investment in energy infrastructure, biofuels, the building of high voltage transmission lines, and nuclear energy.
In Missouri, more than 80 percent of our electricity comes from coal, which is relatively cheap.
And Mills said people are also concerned about keeping power affordable.
"I think it would be a huge shock to Missouri’s economy if were we to say as of tomorrow, we’re shutting down all the coal plants," Mills said. "We don’t really have anything to replace them, at the moment. But even if we did, I think it would really impact the question of affordability.”
Missouri Governor Jay Nixon launched the state energy plan in June, putting the Department of Economic Development in charge of drafting it.
Mills said most states already have an energy plan in place. "But Missouri doesn’t. The general goal is simply to allow people and businesses and industry to understand what Missouri’s policies are with respect to the development and use of energy, in both the near term and the long term," Mills said.
To help lead the effort, Nixon appointed a 55-member steering committee representing a broad range of energy interests, from Ameren to the Sierra Club. In October, the committee convened for the first time and held a series of public meetings throughout the state.
The Division of Energy also established six technical working groups. "We’ve assembled industry experts, academics, and interested citizens to put a finer point on some of the things that we heard from the steering committee and from the local public meetings in terms of the way Missouri is using energy now, and the ways that it might do so in the future," Mills said.
Another conference call with the working groups is set for early February. "We’ve had a lot of lively discussion," Mills said. "We certainly made an effort to make sure that we didn’t stack the decks in the working groups in terms of people with a particular viewpoint."
The next step will be for the Division of Energy to start discussing proposed energy policies and get them down on paper.
The final plan is due out by May 31.
That's at least a couple of months before the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is likely to finalize its proposed rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from power plants. It's also more than a year before the Missouri Department of Natural Resources would need to complete the state's implementation plan for meeting those new limits.
"The processes are really separate," Mills said. "Because our plan is going to be done before we even know what the final rules look like."
But Mills said given the comments his office has received in support of shifting away from coal in favor of renewable energy sources ― and increasing energy efficiency ― he thinks Missouri's Comprehensive State Energy Plan should put the state on the right track to meet federal carbon reduction targets.
Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience