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Missouri Supreme Court Rules Solar Rebates for Empire District Electric Company

Missouri Supreme Court Building

The Missouri Supreme Court ruled 5-2 in favor of the “Renew Missouri and Missouri Coalition for the Environment (MCE) for their appeal from the Public Service Commission against Empire District Electric Company on Tuesday, Feb 10. That means Solar Rebates for Empire District Electric Company Customers.

The ruling clarifies that “…more than six years after a majority of Empire’s customers voted to require them to do so, Empire must offer solar rebates.” said PJ Wilson, Director of Renew Missouri.

In 2008, voters approved the Renewable Energy Law that mandates investor-owned utilities to generate a portion of their power from wind, solar and other fossil-free sources. Before it’s approval, Legislature exempted utilities that by 2009 had already proven to produce at least 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources. Empire, having already invested in Kansas wind farms believed to have exceeded the 15 percent standard.

In 2004 Empire began to invest in renewable energy for customers. In December of 2004 a 20-year agreement with PPM Energy (now Iberdrola) was signed to receive all of the energy generated by the Elk River Windfarm, located in Butler County, Kansas.  The first energy received from the 150-megawatt farm was on October 17, 2005.

The success led Empire to sign a second purchase power agreement with Horizon Wind Energy. In 2008, the ground was broken eight miles south of Concordia, Kansas to create the 201 megawatt wind farm, “Meridian Way”. Empire purchases a portion of the energy  (105-megawatts) while Westar Energy purchases the other portion (96-megawatts).

The renewable energy law also stated that in 2015, for-profit utilities need renewable energy credits worth at least 5 percent of their total power generation, and that requirement rises to 15 percent by 2021. A smaller portion of the renewable requirement, 2 percent, must come from solar energy. Utilities were also required to pay customers rebates for installing rooftop solar panels.

The ruling on Tuesday, Feb 10 erases the law that Empire claimed gave it an exemption from offering solar rebates to its customers. The court concluded that the ‘exemption was repealed by the passage of Proposition C,’ since Proposition C passed after the legislature’s action and required all publicly regulated utilities including Empire District Electric Company, to offer solar rebates to there customers starting in January 2010. The court explained in its ruling ‘the legislature could not preemptively negate the effect of the initiative before it had even been voted on by the people and make the people’s later vote a meaningless act…” (see full article)

More information about the ruling can be found at http://www.courts.mo.gov/file.jsp?id=83613.

Statement from Empire: 

“The Empire District Electric Company is still reviewing the Missouri Supreme Court’s Decision that was issued on February 10, 2015, and has not yet determined its next steps. It is EDE’s understanding that the Decision will not be final for at least 15 days. Thereafter, the matter may return to the Missouri Public Service Commission for further action related to the underlying PSC case.”