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Health, Science, Environment

Sierra Club pushing Ameren for ambitious renewable energy targets

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Seven of Ameren Missouri's ash ponds have been rated 'poor' by the Environmental Protection Agency. Ameren’s power plant near Labadie, Mo. (pictured) has been at the center of a recent debate about a proposed coal ash landfill near the plant.

The Sierra Club is appealing to Ameren shareholders in an attempt to prompt the utility to move away from coal-based energy.

The organization has submitted a resolution to shareholders calling for at least 30-percent wind and solar sourced energy by 2030 and at least 70-percent by 2050.

Sierra Club Missouri Chapter Director John Hickey says the utility currently only produces about one-percent from a renewable mix.

“Ameren is under-invested in wind and solar; is over-invested in dirty coal.”

It is the first time the environmental group has taken up the shareholder resolution option with St. Louis-based Ameren.

Hickey says a member inherited  stock and donated those shares  so the organization can have a voice at shareholders meetings.

The utility’s annual shareholder session is usually held in April. But there is a possibility the proposal does not come up for a vote in the spring.

Friday is the final day to submit resolutions for the meeting. Hickey says that provides enough time for the Securities and Exchange Commission to make sure it meets federal standards and also opens a window for potential dialogue.

“It is theoretically possible that Ameren will say – boy you guys are right. We will take this commitment on and we will just commit to 30 percent by 2030 without going to the shareholders resolution,” Hickey tells St. Louis Public Radio.

“It’s possible. I wouldn’t call it likely”

The Sierra Club points to other Midwest utilities that have made progress in shifting away from coal - specifically Kansas City Power and Light.

The club says that company is already producing 12-percent of its energy from wind and solar technology and plans to surpass the 30-percent threshold by 2030.

“So, Ameren’s peers in the utility industry are making these new investments. Ameren is not. Our resolution asks Ameren to get with the program.”

Ameren officials say they "absolutely" support cleaner energy.

"For years, we have been executing our 20-year energy plan that is supported by stakeholders throughout Missouri," said Steve Whitworth, senior director of environmental policy and analysis for Ameren, in a statement sent to St. Louis Public Radio. "Our plan includes different kinds of electric generation such as renewables, natural gas, hydro and nuclear."

But Ameren says it will make the transition from coal to cleaner energy "in the most affordable way for our customers."

Ameren's oldest coal-fired plant started operations in 1953. Ameren Missouri's website lists four coal-fired energy centers, three renewable-based plants and one nuclear facility.

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