It has proven difficult to assess what price Missourians will have to pay to cool their homes in the summer and heat them in the winter, but the Public Service Commission is giving it a try.
A second State of the Electric Industry symposium has been held by the Public Service Commission at the Governor Office Building in Jefferson City. PSC Chairman Robert Clayton understands debate on cap and trade legislation in Washington can be heated here in Missouri, but he advocates a practical response to whatever might be coming the state’s way.
"This is not a debate about, necessarily, climate or the environment. If something happens in Washington, regardless of what the bill is, we need to be prepared to act," Clayton says. "And we need to be prepared to improve what policies we have. We need to be prepared to inform consumers. So, I think the dialogue is important."
Missouri is a low-cost energy state. Yet, legislation in Washington as well as voter-approved Proposition C last year appears to be moving Missouri away from coal, the source of its cheap energy. Cap and trade would penalize coal-fired plants, which produce more than 80% of the electricity Missourians use. The legislation provides for offsets and other incentives to lessen the cost of moving away from traditional power generation. Proposition C requires Missouri utilities to produce 2% of their energy through alternatives fuels by 2011 and 15% by 2021.
PSC Commissioner Jeff Davis understands the environmental concerns.
"We need to lessen our dependence on coal, but we need to do it in a measured way that doesn’t wreck our economy," Davis says. "We need to preserve what manufacturing jobs we have left, because we’re not going to get any more."
Despite assurances of offsets in the cap and trade legislation, as well as other mitigating factors, both Davis and Clayton anticipate higher electric bills in the years ahead, perhaps much higher.