Ameren Sets Goal of Net-Zero by 2050, Plots Major Wind and Solar Expansion in Midwest
Ameren has joined the ranks of U.S. utilities pledging to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, with a long-range plan that invests nearly $8 billion in renewable energy and accelerates some coal plant closures — although it will retain much of its coal fleet through 2040.
Like other net-zero carbon goals, Ameren’s will rely on “further advancements in innovative, carbon-free technologies and constructive federal and state energy and economic policies” to reach its final goal, CEO Warner Baxter said in a Monday statement.
Ameren joins a growing list of U.S. utilities committing to net-zero carbon by midcentury in states that haven’t yet set that goal as a mandate, although several are on the cusp of doing so. The list includes Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, Southern Company, Arizona Public Service, NRG, PSEG, Xcel Energy, Consumers Energy, Alliant Energy and, just last week, Entergy.
In its 15-year integrated resource plan (IRP) released Monday for review by Missouri regulators, the utility serving about 2.4 million customers in Missouri and Illinois plans to invest nearly $8 billion to add 3.1 gigawatts of renewables to its generation mix by 2030, hitting a total of 5.4 GW by 2040. That will allow it to reduce carbon emissions by 50 percent from 2005 levels by 2030 and by 85 percent by 2040, accelerating by a decade its previous plan to cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.
Ameren Missouri’s 10.1 GW of generating capacity, measured in terms of 2020 peak summer demand, incudes 5.3 GW of coal, 2.8 GW of natural gas, 1.2 GW of nuclear, 820 megawatts of hydroelectric and 13 MW of solar. Ameren Illinois doesn’t own generation; it acquires generation resources through a procurement process managed by the Illinois Power Agency or through retail electric suppliers.
The new IRP and zero-carbon goals accelerate the growth of renewables called for in a Smart Energy Plan the utility filed with Missouri regulators in February. That includes spending about $1.2 billion to acquire two Missouri wind projects with 700 MW of generation capacity expected to be complete by this year and in service in early 2021. Ameren Missouri has also initiated a request for proposals to solicit bids for wind and solar projects; it plans to create a renewable subscription program to expand on existing subscriber and community solar programs. With these avenues for renewables growth, Ameren expects to add about 1.2 GW of solar, 300 megawatts of wind and 900 megawatts of a combination of those two resources by 2030, as this timeline from its IRP indicates.
Coal and natural gas remain for decades
The timeline for coal plant retirements has also been accelerated for its Sioux Energy Center coal plant, now expected to close by 2028, and its Rush Island Energy Center, which will shutter by 2039. Ameren already planned to close its Meramec Energy Center coal plant by 2022 and two units of its four-unit Labadie Energy Center plant by 2036, removing three-quarters of its coal-fired energy generating capacity by 2040. All remaining coal-fired plants are scheduled to retire by 2042.
Replacing the round-the-clock capacity provided by its coal plants will require investments in energy storage as well as policies to promote the efficient use of customer-owned distributed energy resources including rooftop solar, elec