Twelve percent, or 318,650, of Missouri’s 2.67 million workers are employed in occupations relevant to the energy solutions industry, from the state’s legacy battery industry and its importance to the booming electric vehicle sector to the whole range of renewables and other sectors that benefit from the state’s engineering heritage.
The Missouri Energy Initiative (MEI) is a nonpartisan, nonprofit association of public- and private-sector entities working together to increase energy economic development, innovation and education throughout the state. MEI is led by Executive Director Josh Campbell, who in 2015 launched the Show Me PACE Clean Energy District, based in the state capital of Jefferson City (showmepace.org). Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) is a financing mechanism for property owners to pay for energy efficiency and renewable energy measures. As of summer 2021, the award-winning Show Me PACE organization had administered nearly $64 million in PACE financing for projects that saved property owners more than $85 million and had an overall economic impact of more than $346 million.
The Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance recently highlighted these specialized programs in alternative energy that continue to fuel the state’s energy talent base:
University of Science and Technology (Rolla): Missouri S&T’s Energy Research and Development Center is involved in grid stabilization and storage for green energy technologies.
University of Missouri (Columbia): MU’s Center for Sustainable Energy coordinates research, education, and commercialization for all renewables.
Washington University in St. Louis: This venerable institution has the country’s only department of Energy, Environmental, and Chemical Engineering, and is also home to the International Center for Advanced Renewable Energy and Sustainability (I-CARES), a center founded in 2007 to foster research on energy, environment, and sustainability across several disciplines through collaborations with the international business community.
Crowder College (Neosho): Home to the Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology (MARET) Center, recognized internationally for its contributions to the energy field, Crowder offers a Pre-Engineering Associate of Applied Science Degree, Associate of Arts with biofuels, solar, wind specialization and six alternative energy certificate tracks.
University of Central Missouri (Warrensburg): UCM recently developed a new workforce program focused on Green/Sustainable Industries.
Electrical Connection (St. Louis): The Midwest’s largest resource for training electricians and communication technicians, this organization trains more than 1,200 IBEW apprentices each year.
Mineral Area College (Park Hills): This institution offers both a Renewable Energy Technology Certificate and an Associate of Applied Science degree.
Southeast Missouri State University (Cape Girardeau): SMSU offers a BS degree in Technology Management with Sustainable Energy Systems Management specialization.
St. Louis Community College (St. Louis): SLCC offers four accelerated training programs to retool workers for Energy Solutions Technician jobs.
Pinnacle Career Institute (Kansas City): Pinnacle offers wind turbine technician training programs.
I corresponded with Campbell in July 2021 about the state’s business climate for energy innovation and business growth.
We’ve tracked the growth of Springfield-based Sun Solar ($4.5 million, 100 new jobs in Springfield, among other Missouri locations) among clean-tech and renewables firms expanding operations in the state. Where are you seeing other energy firms do the same?
Josh Campbell: Energy storage firms, such as EnergySys and ZAF Energy Systems (AESIR Technologies), are growing in Missouri and gaining large contracts with a variety of industries, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the aerospace industry, telecommunication industry, etc.
Which pieces of recent state legislation are doing the most to support the energy industry?
Campbell: House Bill 734 (2021) is securitization legislation that authorizes investor-owned utilities to apply to state regulators to finance “energy transition costs.” This has the potential to reduce the cost of retiring power plants that have reached the end of their useful life, paving the way for more renewable energy sources to take the place of coal.
Senate Bill 564 (2018) was grid modernization legislation that paved the way for utilities to make significant investments in infrastructure to bolster the grid and implement smart technologies. Utilities have invested in smart meters, renewable energy sources and a variety of system upgrades.
Among Ameren, Evergy and other utilities, which programs are you seeing do the most to help Missouri companies achieve their energy efficiency goals?
Campbell: Each of Missouri’s investor-owned utilities are investing in AMI (advanced metering technology), expanding smart meters throughout their service territories. This allows them to offer new rate designs, such as time of use (TOU) rates and demand response programs to improve energy efficiency through customer behavior. In addition to what the utilities are offering through MEEIA [the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act, passed in 2009], cities like St. Louis and Kansas City have passed ordinances which will push for energy efficiency improvements in the built environment, which have the potential to expand in other parts of the state. Kansas City has instituted a benchmarking ordinance, while St. Louis has a benchmarking ordinance and the Midwest’s first Building Energy Performance Standard.
What are the most promising opportunities in Missouri for energy-related economic development?
Campbell: Energy storage: With a variety of energy storage companies calling Missouri home, large reserves of lead and facilities to recycle lead-acid batteries, and significant research capabilities at universities across the state, Missouri is primed to act as a hub for the energy storage industry as technologies from lead-acid to lithium-ion continue to advance.
EV charging infrastructure: The Kansas City area has been a leader in the region in building out electric vehicle charging infrastructure and has seen EV ownership gains year over year as it prepares for a more electrified future.
Biogas: Between opportunities for the development of renewable natural gas at animal agriculture sites throughout the state and biogas utilization opportunities at wastewater treatment facilities, there is a large reserve of energy-related economic development yet to be tapped.
Broadband expansion: There is a significant opportunity available to continue to expand access to broadband throughout the state, allowing customers access to energy efficiency programs.