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Missouri municipalities expect to save $10 million annually as a result of the Grain Belt Express

Posted on 06/23/2016 by Mark Lawlor

With the price of wind energy two-thirds cheaper than it was in 2009, wind power has become one of the lowest cost sources of energy in certain regions of the country, according to Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, and that has increasing appeal to organizations with goals both to lower emissions, and to secure low-cost, fixed-price energy that protects them from fuel price fluctuations.

The Missouri Joint Municipal Electric Utility Commission (MJMUEC) recently approved a proposal for the purchase of long-term transmission service on the Grain Belt Express Clean Line (Grain Belt Express) transmission project. This agreement will not only increase the public power agency’s renewable energy supply, but is also expected to save Missouri municipal ratepayers at least $10 million annually when the project becomes operational, according to an analysis performed by MJMUEC.

The Grain Belt Express transmission project will access wind energy from western Kansas, where power can be produced at some of the lowest costs in the country. MJMUEC’s agreement with Grain Belt Express, in addition to a purchase power agreement with a wind generator in western Kansas, will allow MJMUEC’s member-city utilities to secure low-cost power. Wind energy would be delivered at less than 3 cents per kilowatt hour for up to 25 years, if the Grain Belt Express Clean Line is approved by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), in 2015, wind energy installed more electric generating capacity last year than any other energy source in America. The wind rush grew stronger, as the American industry installed 8,598 megawatts (MW) of electric generating capacity across 20 states. That’s the third most ever in a year, and a 77 percent increase over 2014. Wind’s first-place finish in new power plant installations represented 41 percent of all new generating capacity to come online in 2015, ahead of solar (28.5 percent) and natural gas (28.1 percent).

“Wind’s growth is being propelled by cost reductions over the last six years, which now makes wind the lowest-cost source of new generation,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association.

“It’s one of the biggest, fastest, cheapest ways we can reduce U.S. carbon emissions, and the low-cost solution for power sector reductions. Utilities and other purchasers are turning to wind energy also because it provides stably-priced energy with no fuel price risk, and protects consumers by creating a more diverse energy portfolio,” Kiernan said.  

The initial subscriber for MJMEUC is the group of 35 cities known as the Missouri Public Energy Pool (MoPEP) that procure all of their energy from MJMEUC. Chad Davis, MoPEP Committee Chair and Utility Director, Trenton Municipal Utilities, said “this agreement provides one more important tool to help us adjust our energy portfolio in the future when we need to meet changing regulations and a broad range of customer expectations at an affordable price.”

“Historically, the biggest challenge to adding renewable energy to our resource mix has been price and transmission,” said Kyle Gibbs, General Manager for Marshall Municipal Utilities. “This agreement solves both of those issues and delivers tremendous benefits to our member municipalities and their customers.”