Ameren Corporation established a net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050 across all its operations in Missouri and Illinois. The company also announced its largest-ever expansion of clean solar and wind generation while maintaining the reliability and affordability that customers have come to expect.
The clean energy expansion is included in the Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) of Ameren Missouri. The IRP is a triennial filing that sets forth Ameren Missouri’s preferred plan to transform its electricity generation portfolio over the coming decades. It takes advantage of the continued decline in the cost to build new clean energy resources.
“Our transformative plan accelerates Ameren’s transition toward cleaner energy and targets net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, while meeting our customers’ expectations for safe, reliable and affordable energy,” said Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren Corporation.
“This is a step change in renewable energy investments and carbon emission reductions from the plan we presented three years ago,” said Marty Lyons, chairman and president of Ameren Missouri. “Under our plan, customers will receive significant benefits from advances in technology and falling renewable energy costs, as well as from robust energy efficiency programs to help keep their energy costs affordable.”
Central to Ameren’s plan is the commitment to net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. This new, more aggressive goal reflects the company’s leadership and continued commitment to clean energy and the environment. Milestones include reducing carbon emissions 50% by 2030 and 85% by 2040, based on 2005 levels. The new goals accelerate and expand on the company’s 2017 pledge and are consistent with the objectives of the Paris Agreement and limiting global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Highlights of Ameren Missouri’s plan to achieve this goal include:
- The company’s largest investments in renewable solar and wind energy in its history.
- Investing billions of dollars, creating thousands of jobs.
- Building on an already solid base of carbon-free generation.
- Advancing retirements of coal-fired energy centers.
- Offering customers even more clean energy choices.
- Continuing focus on reliability and affordability.
Advances in technology and decreasing costs for renewable energy and energy storage are making it possible to dramatically reduce carbon emissions, keeping energy affordable and reliable while strengthening environmental stewardship.
“Our analysis shows that now is the time to capitalize on investment opportunities for the benefit of our customers, the communities where we raise our families and the environment,” Lyons said.
Increasing renewable solar and wind energy investments
Ameren Missouri’s IRP includes investment of nearly $8 billion in renewable energy over the next two decades. By 2030, the company would add 3,100 megawatts (MW) of renewable generation reflecting a combined investment of approximately $4.5 billion. Renewable energy would increase to a total of 5,400 MW by 2040. Ameren Missouri projects the plan will create thousands of new construction jobs. The benefits of these investments extend through the local economy, leading to greater levels of opportunity for many, including diverse suppliers.
Investments are already underway, with the planned acquisition of two Missouri-based wind energy facilities in the next few months for approximately $1.2 billion.
“Communities in Missouri are already seeing the benefits of economic expansion driven by the availability, construction and ongoing operation of renewable resources,” Lyons said. “Renewable energy, constructed right here in Missouri, is good for the local economy.”
Building on a solid base of carbon-free generation
Ameren Missouri continues to invest in its existing carbon-free energy sources – including nuclear, hydro and solar – while also evaluating and pursuing additional clean energy innovations. Nearly 30% of Ameren Missouri’s current energy generation comes from these sources. In the future, Ameren Missouri expects to seek an extension of the operating license for the Callaway Energy Center beyond 2044.
“The continued efficient operation of these carbon-free energy centers is critical to all of our goals, including reaching net-zero emissions by 2050,” Lyons said.
Ameren Missouri’s planned transformative addition of renewable energy is the direct result of a robust, methodical process that balances reliability, affordability and environmental stewardship. The IRP evaluates a range of customer energy needs and a variety of ways those needs can be met through building new, cleaner generation resources, as well as expanding customer renewable energy, energy efficiency and demand response programs.
“We have developed a comprehensive plan that will significantly reduce carbon emissions in a responsible fashion and deliver strong customer benefits,” Baxter said. “We have also established a bold goal to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. Achieving our goal will be driven by further advancements in innovative, carbon-free technologies and constructive federal and state energy and economic policies. Working together with key stakeholders, we believe we can achieve this important goal for our customers, our communities and our country.”
“Climate change is one of the most important issues of our time. Our transformative plan to add large amounts of wind and solar energy generation will ensure all customers, regardless of where they happen to live or their household income, have access to clean, reliable and affordable energy,” said Gwen Mizell, vice president of sustainability and electrification at Ameren. “Our plan is a progressive move toward building a sustainable energy future.”
Advancing the retirement of coal-fired energy centers
The company’s coal-fired energy centers rank as some of the best in the country in terms of providing reliable, affordable energy with emission rates well below environmental standards.
The continued safe, reliable operation of these 24/7 energy centers, along with the carbon-free Callaway Energy Center, are the foundation that allows the company to maintain reliability while building a smarter energy grid and incorporating more renewable resources into the energy mix. They also provide the flexibility needed to take advantage of changes in technology, such as battery storage.
“We’re very appreciative of our co-workers, especially those in the energy centers, who continue working around the clock to provide the dependable energy that millions of people and thousands of businesses count on each day,” said Ajay Arora, vice president of power operations and energy management at Ameren Missouri.
In recognition of changing market economics, as well as consideration for maintaining reliability through the transformation to renewable energy, the company’s plan includes advancing the retirement of two of its coal-fired energy centers. The Sioux Energy Center is now planned to retire in 2028 and the Rush Island Energy Center’s retirement is planned for 2039. More than 75% of the company’s current coal-fired energy generating capacity is expected to retire by 2040, and all coal-fired energy centers are scheduled to retire by 2042. Planned retirements begin in 2022 with the Meramec Energy Center.
Offering customers more clean energy choices
Ameren Missouri offers customers a range of options to increase their use of renewable energy. These include existing programs, such as Community Solar and Neighborhood Solar, as well as future customer renewable energy programs that will enable customers and communities to achieve their clean energy goals.
Support for the plan
An important aspect of the IRP process is ongoing dialogue and sharing of information with a wide variety of stakeholders, including consumer, environmental, conservation and community groups.
“We are excited to build on the conversations with a broad coalition of stakeholders, community leaders and industry experts through our planning process,” Arora said.
Climate, community and energy leaders from across the country are supportive of Ameren’s updated goals and renewable energy plans:
“Ameren’s new net-zero carbon goal for 2050 and the advancement of 2040 and 2030 goals by ten years is huge progress from where the company was just three years ago. It’s a meaningful step in the Midwest in addressing climate change that builds on the company’s success in achieving the 2025 Paris targets five years early. Clean energy and energy efficiency investments of more than $5 billion in the next ten years will help our region’s economic recovery, with energy efficiency and demand response programs saving the equivalent of two large power plants. With additional state and federal policy support, even greater emission reductions and economic benefits are possible.” – Ashok Gupta, Natural Resources Defense Council
“The Nature Conservancy of Missouri is encouraged to see Ameren’s vision and carbon-free goal. Reducing carbon emissions is critical to addressing climate change that impacts us all. In order to avoid the worst effects of climate change and help society and nature adapt to the impacts we are already experiencing, we must reach net zero emissions by 2050. The Nature Conservancy of Missouri stands ready to work with Ameren, state and local governments, and a wide cross-section of partners, to make this goal a reality by supporting the responsible deployment of renewable energy, retiring coal plants, and putting nature to work. Nature offers valuable climate solutions through conservation, restoration and improved land management of our forests, grasslands, and wetlands. Ameren’s carbon-free goal is pivotal for Missouri and provides opportunity for both people and nature to thrive.” –Adam McLane, The Nature Conservancy of Missouri
The IRP is filed with and reviewed by the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) every three years. Major aspects of the plan, including construction of new renewable energy generation resources, customer energy efficiency programs, and renewable and demand response programs, will require separate PSC approval. Where necessary, Ameren Missouri will also need to obtain federal and local approvals and interconnection agreements so that it can use transmission services to connect renewable energy resources with Ameren Missouri customers.
Criticism of Ameren’s IRP
The Sierra Club issued the following press release reacting to Ameren’s IRP announcement:
Two of Ameren’s coal plants, Sioux and Rush Island, had their retirement dates accelerated by five years with no update for the retirement of the Labadie coal plant, which is the largest coal plant in the country without modern pollution controls. Just last year a judge ruled that Ameren operated the Rush Island coal plant in violation of the Clean Air Act for more than a decade. An expert witness in the case hired by the United States Department of Justice determined emissions violations caused up to 800 premature deaths over nine years. Ameren is appealing the judge’s order to add modern pollution controls to its Rush Island and Labadie coal plants to make up for years of Clean Air Act violations.
Sierra Club will continue to engage in the IRP process as it moves from internal planning at Ameren to a more public forum before the PSC for review. Creating a more transparent planning process is one way to achieve better equity in how the utility does business. It is not too late for Ameren to change its IRP following stakeholder input.
Andy Knott is a Senior Campaign Representative for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign:
“Ameren’s IRP is a gradual step in the right direction, but it doesn’t go far enough to address the climate crisis we’re experiencing now. Adding 3,100 MW of renewable energy by 2030 will only get Ameren to about 25% of its total energy production from renewable sources. Sierra Club recently called on Ameren to reach 100% clean energy by 2030 to improve public health, use its clean energy transition to help address systemic racism in the region and avert the worst impacts of our ever-present climate crisis.
“While accelerating the retirement dates for two of its coal plants is positive, Ameren makes no change to its retirement date for its Labadie coal plant, the largest coal plant in the country without modern pollution controls. Given that Ameren says this IRP provides it with “significant and important flexibility” regarding its long-range capacity, the utility could accelerate the retirement of all its coal plants by 2030. We’d also like to see more concrete details for how Ameren gets to net-zero emissions by 2050.
“Regarding the IRP process itself, we hope Ameren will be more transparent in the future, as current involvement requires signing non-disclosure agreements that limit community engagement. That’s one reason we will request a hearing with the Missouri Public Service Commission, so more stakeholders are heard in the IRP process.
“Any good news in this IRP should be tempered by the actions Ameren is taking now, or has taken since its last IRP was released, that harm its customers and contribute to injustice. Ameren disconnected 5,000 customers in August and is forecasted to turn off power for 7,000 customers each month through the end of the year; during a global pandemic and economic crisis. The IRP doesn’t change the fact that, over the last three years, Ameren spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in a dark money effort to erode environmental and public health safeguards at the Environmental Protection Agency while pushing to keep toxic coal waste in vulnerable areas like floodplains. Overall, Ameren needs improvement.”
News item from Ameren Corporation. Updated with Sierra Club’s comments at 3 p.m. ET.