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Ameren Missouri to generate more wind and solar power but some say the utility could do more

A wind turbine.
Ameren Missouri
Ameren Missouri plans to use wind turbines to add 700 megawatts by 2020.

Missouri's largest utility company announced plans today that could dramatically reduce its impact on the environment. 

Ameren Missouri released multiple goals it hopes to achieve, which include adding 700 megawatts of wind power generation by 2020, along with 100 megawatts of solar power by 2027. Company leaders are speaking to developers about a potential wind farm project and hope to provide more details by the end of this year.

"This is important for our customers. They're asking us to do it," said Michael Moehn, president of Ameren Missouri. "We've been looking at these technologies for a number of years and feel this is the right time to continue to look for that diversification in our portfolio." 

The utility also has committed to cutting 80 percent of its carbon emissions from its 2005 levels by the year 2050. Part of the effort involves retiring half of its coal-fired operations. That includes closing the Meramec Power Plant in south St. Louis County by 2022, which it has planned to for some time. 

The Missouri Sierra Club, which has long criticized Ameren for not investing enough in renewable energy, called the utility's announcement a positive step. But Sierra Club officials say the utility could try harder. 

"Ameren's rate of clean energy and its overall goal towards reducing carbon emissions remains sluggish," said Andy Knott, a campaign organizer with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. 

Knott also was skeptical that Ameren's planned increases in solar and wind energy generation would be enough to meet Missouri's renewable energy portfolio standard, which requires that major utilities in the state generate 15 percent of its portfolio from renewable sources by the year 2021. Ameren is currently at 5 percent. Knott said other state utilities, such as Kansas City Power and Light and City Utilities in Springfield, are much more ahead in wind and solar generation than Ameren. 

"[Ameren] is still following the smaller utilities instead of leading them," Knott said.

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Eli is the science and environment reporter at St. Louis Public Radio.

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