Renewable energy could be a reliable new cash crop for rural Missouri

James Owen
James Owen

With the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, clean energy projects have the opportunity to become the most reliable cash crops for Missouri's vast agricultural landscape. In this federal legislation, $40 billion are earmarked to help rural communities in addition to debt relief to help rural electric cooperatives transition from coal to wind and solar. However, it is not the only money available for these energy projects. Wind and solar can provide millions of dollars annually to landowners and millions more to country coffers in tax revenue.

Renewables are the new harvest that can bring rural Missouri into the future. Already, state investments exceed $4.3 million and directly created 4,000 jobs. In turn, this placement of clean energy has led to attracting businesses like Facebook to locate operations in Missouri to take advantage of access to clean energy. It’s not just good for landowners and county governments, it’s also common sense for attracting businesses, workers and their families.

Right now, rural electric cooperatives have rejected significant investment in clean energy in Missouri, with the president of the cooperative’s power supplier calling such investments “stupid.” This attitude ignores economic benefits, as well as the fact wind and solar costs have fallen 47% and 71%, respectively, over the last decade, making them the most affordable new electricity sources.

These statements also ignore reliability benefits of clean energy. Approximately 75% of the state has an above-average potential for solar power — improving energy security, reducing congestion, and lowering operational costs.

Modernizing our grid will significantly reduce the frequency and duration of power outages, limit storm impacts, and restore service faster when outages occur. By investing in transmission, we are investing in our energy infrastructure, which will pay off substantially in the future. There is nothing “stupid” about that.

The proposed Grain Belt Express is a perfect example of what investment in transmission can do. The transmission line is forecasted to save Missouri, Kansas and Illinois $8.5 trillion in energy costs and provide clean energy to 3.2 million homes. Thousands of megawatts of wind and solar have been successfully added to our electric grid, and an updated grid will make energy consumption even more efficient and reliable.

The benefits of clean energy have begun to shine across the state, but it will require Governor Parson’s leadership to accept this federal money for these benefits, as well as a change in how the rural electric cooperatives look at clean energy. Missourians must continue to invest in our state’s energy grid to ensure a reliable, more affordable future.

James Owen is the executive director of Renew Missouri, a 501(c)(3) that promotes and advocates for renewable energy and energy efficiency before the Missouri Public Service Commission, the Missouri legislature and local governments throughout the state.

This article originally appeared on Springfield News-Leader: Rural Missouri should invest in clean energy, infrastructure