Remarks by Gov. Nixon on Missouri’s energy future

June 18, 2014

Gov. Jay Nixon today addressed a meeting of the Midcontinent Independent Service Operator (MISO) in St. Louis, where he announced he had signed an executive order laying out the next steps in developing Missouri’s comprehensive energy plan. MISO is a regional transmission organization that ensures the robust and reliable transfer of energy along the interconnected transmission system in 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba. The Governor’s prepared remarks are below.

Good afternoon, and thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today about an issue that is so important to the future of our state, our nation, and our planet.

MISO is on the frontlines of ensuring Missourians, and all Americans, continue to have access to the reliable, predictable, efficient energy we take for granted from the moment our alarm clock rings each morning to when we switch off the lights each night.

And today, with the rise of more intermittent energy sources and new threats – both natural and man-made – to our energy infrastructure, and the pervasive importance of energy to our way of life, your mission is more critical than ever. 

From heating our homes, to lighting our skylines, to powering our farms and factories, to fueling our cars and trucks, energy is at the center of everything we do, everywhere we go, and every product we make. 

And here in Missouri, the Show-Me State, where we stand at the confluence of mighty rivers and the crossroads of so many diverse regions, we bring a unique perspective to the issues facing our country, and energy is no exception.

That’s reflected in the fact that we are served by not one but two major regional transmission organizations.

In St. Louis, what’s often called the western-most eastern city, we’re served by MISO. Over in Kansas City, the country’s eastern-most western city, we have the Southwest Energy Pool.

And we are very proud of what we’re doing in the Heartland to build a more prosperous, sustainable and secure energy future for all Americans.

It’s one of the things I’ve learned over the past five and a half years as Governor, and something that continues to strike me to this day: the extent to which energy has been the recurring theme running through nearly every aspect of our economy. 

When it comes to consumption, Missouri has the eighth-lowest energy costs in the nation, which helps consumers make ends meet, and gives us a huge competitive advantage when it comes to attracting jobs and investments, especially in energy intensive industries like manufacturing. 

At the same time, when it comes to generation, Missouri is well-positioned to become a hub for clean energy jobs. In fact, our Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth identified “Energy Solutions” as one of the key sectors with the greatest potential to create jobs and spur growth in the future. And sure enough, earlier this year, a national report ranked Missouri among the top 10 states for clean energy jobs.

We saw a great example of energy’s complex relationship to our economy this past January at the Detroit Auto Show, where Ford unveiled the all-new aluminum F-150, being manufactured on the other side of the state in Claycomo.

Three years ago, when Ford announced it would make a historic $1.1 billion investment to manufacture its next generation vans and pickups in Missouri, our low energy costs were clearly a factor. Since then, they’ve continued to add more capacity and more jobs to a plant that has helped put Missouri at the center of the rebirth of American automotive manufacturing.

But for 2015, Ford gave America’s favorite pickup a makeover, replacing its heavy steel with lighter aluminum to improve efficiency without backing up on performance. This next-generation vehicle will roll off the line over in Kansas City seven hundred pounds lighter than the 2014 model, and industry experts predict that Ford’s competitors will rush to catch up.

The marketing firm Ducker Worldwide anticipates that seven out of 10 pickups will have an aluminum body by 2025.

Low energy costs helped Missouri attract and keep Ford’s investment. But it was the high costs of fossil fuels, combined with federal efficiency standards, that helped Ford become more innovative and competitive.

In recognition of energy’s unique and growing importance to our economy, last year I issued an executive order to realign the Division of Energy from the Department of Natural Resources to the Department of Economic Development.

This past April, I announced that the Division’s first task in its new home would be the development of a comprehensive energy plan for the state. And today, I’m proud to announce the official launch of this ambitious and much-needed project.  

This morning I signed Executive Order 14-06, which formally establishes the broad-based, collaborative process the Division of Energy will lead as they chart a roadmap for energy policy in our state for years to come.

For most of the last hundred years, energy was a simple matter of supply and demand. Like every industrialized nation, we built our economy with ever-increasing energy consumption and ever-increasing production. 

As the people in this room understand better than anyone, today we face a new landscape to which we must adapt, or we will fall behind.

On the horizon, we see both opportunities and challenges: the increasing costs of fossil fuels, the decreasing costs of renewable energy sources, and new regulations on coal-fired electric generation, which currently supplies 83 percent of Missouri’s electricity.

With so much at stake, energy policy must stem from deliberate and thoughtful planning, not the ad hoc regulatory process we’ve relied on in the past.

We need to have a clear vision for what our energy future should look like, and how to get there.

At public forums throughout the state, this initiative will gather input from a broad array of Missourians, including consumers, public utilities, power producers, electric cooperatives, energy technology companies, researchers, environmental groups, and business leaders. 

By May 31, 2015, the result of this open and transparent process will be a number of strategic energy objectives and specific recommendations for how to achieve them. 

To succeed, the State Energy Plan must include an unflinching examination of our current energy policies and an honest assessment of emerging challenges and opportunities. It cannot shy away from the very real and very important issues in the energy sector, including: 

The proper role of coal, hydroelectric and nuclear power, including small modular reactors, as we work to diversify our energy portfolio and implement the EPA’s new guidelines;
The affordability and long-term viability of renewable energy sources like wind and solar, and alternative fuels like ethanol and biodiesel;
Safeguarding our energy infrastructure from cyber attacks and other threats;
The next steps for battery technology and grid energy storage;
Energy efficiency and setting reasonable expectations for the savings and benefits such measures can achieve;
How to capitalize on the opportunities that will emerge from measures to combat climate change, while minimizing their costs; and
Empowering consumers by giving them better information and more choices about the energy they use.   

To develop a truly comprehensive energy plan that will stand the test of time, we’ll need to tackle these questions, and many others, head on.

While the details of the plan will take shape over the course of the coming year, its over-arching goals are those we all share: enhancing energy security and reliability; fostering energy-related economic development and attracting new high-paying jobs; and meeting our state’s need for clean, affordable and abundant energy, now and in the future.

We’re taking this approach because we know it works.

In fact, four years ago, during the height of the recession, we convened a Strategic Initiative for Economic Growth, designed to transform our economy for the 21st century. 

We solicited input from more than 600 leaders in business, labor, education and economic development.   The outcome was a five-year blueprint to build an economy ready to meet the challenges of the high-tech global marketplace. 

Over the past four years, we’ve implemented its recommendations, including investing in college and career-readiness and updating our economic development and workforce training programs.

Today, personal income is up, building permits are up, and for two years running, Missouri has had the fastest rate of technology job growth in the nation – number one.

Among the many advantages Missouri brings to this process is an already diverse energy portfolio, including renewable and alternative sources of energy, traditional sources of energy, and measures to promote efficiency.

In northwest Missouri, the Mill Creek Wind Farm will increase Missouri’s wind generating capacity by 50 percent, creating hundreds of jobs during construction and supplying clean, renewable electricity to households across the region.

Here in St. Louis, Ameren has brought online one of the largest landfill gas utilization projects in the nation, collecting gas that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere and turning it into enough renewable energy to power 10,000 homes.

On our farms, Missouri corn and soybean growers are helping put cleaner, renewable fuels in vehicles around the world.

At our world-class research universities and institutions like the Danforth Center, scientists are developing next-generation nuclear and biofuel technologies.

On our rooftops, we’re harnessing more energy from the sun than ever before. From 2008 to 2010, solar generating capacity in Missouri increased more than 19,000 percent.

And across 11 Missouri counties, we’ve helped boost North American energy independence and create jobs by facilitating the responsible construction of the Flanagan South Pipeline, a billion-dollar construction project that created 1,800 jobs.

With strong oversight and safeguards, here in Missouri we’ve demonstrated that these projects can lessen our reliance on oil produced in unstable parts of the world without compromising our responsibility to protect the environment. 

In fact, transporting these needed energy supplies to market via pipeline is far safer and more efficient than transporting them by truck, and that’s why I’ve urged the federal government to approve the long-stalled KeystoneXL pipeline as well.

Finally, nuclear energy remains an important and reliable part of our energy mix. Now in its 30th year of operation, the Callaway Energy Center provides safe, clean, and affordable energy to nearly 800,000 homes.

To take nuclear energy to the next level, we’ve been proud to partner with Ameren and Westinghouse in their effort to bring pioneering SMR technology to market from right here in the Show-Me State.

Now, to ensure we’re being responsible about how we use all this energy, we’ve made energy efficiency a top priority.

When I took office, I directed our state agencies to reduce energy use by two percent each year, a goal we have far exceeded. In fact, since I signed that executive order in 2009, state agencies have reduced their energy consumption by 22 percent. 

That same year, I signed landmark legislation that gives public utilities an incentive to increase energy efficiency, rather than just build more power plants. 

Since 2009, the Energy Efficiency Investment Act has helped encourage utilities to invest in energy efficiency measures, which create jobs and save consumers money.

In 2010, I flipped the switch on Kansas City Power & Light’s Iatan II, one of the cleanest, most efficient coal-fired power plants in the United States, emitting 1.3 million tons less carbon dioxide annually than the U.S. average.

Our comprehensive energy plan will build on these strengths and engage with all of these important stakeholders to ensure Missouri is ready to overcome the challenges and seize the opportunities presented by the 21st century energy economy.  

I want to thank you in advance for your work in the coming weeks and months to work with our Division of Energy as they craft this plan to ensure that Missouri’s energy future remains bright for the businesses, families and communities you serve.

Again, thank you for giving me this opportunity to speak to you today, please enjoy the rest of your conference.