The bill would expand the types of renewable energy sources covered by a law passed by voters in 2008. The law requires investor-owned utilities, such as AmerenUE, to get at least 15 percent of their power from renewable energy by 2021.
The ballot cited solar, wind, biomass and hydro power as renewable energy sources and also includes methane gas collected from landfills and wastewater. If passed, the bill would add methane generated from farm animal waste to the list.
The bill's sponsor, Sen. Frank Barnitz, D-Lake Spring, calls the legislation "one more tool for that toolbox to make sure that we can make it" to the requirements set by the voter-approved proposition.
"This is a very simple piece of legislation just adding one more piece to our portfolio of renewable energy," Barnitz said.
According to Barnitz, the Department of Natural Resources along with the Federal government had grants available to fund the anaerobic digestion technology needed to recover the methane from animal manure.Barnitz also said the process would "significantly" reduce odor.
"I absolutely believe that it will be a huge asset to air quality," Barnitz said.
No one testified in opposition to the bill. Jeff Windett, president of the Missouri Cattlemen's Association, and Don Nikodim, executive vice president of the Missouri Pork Association, spoke in favor of the legislation.Nikodim said he had followed the advancements made in anaerobic digestion systems and felt that the process has become increasingly economically viable.
"The technology has changed to the point where it's gonna be a lot more feasible," Nikodim said.
Warren Wood, director of the Missouri Energy Development Association, also testified in favor. According to Wood, 89 percent of Missouri's electricity is generated by coal and nuclear power plants, entities that are becoming increasingly costly to run. Wood said maintenance, upgrades, and ultimately replacement of these power plants combined with a growing energy demand and escalating fuel costs meant renewable resources are more important than ever.
Wood said the bill was a natural next step and would "encourage greater use of a homegrown energy resource that is cost effective, a positive step toward Missouri's energy independence, supports local agriculture, supports keeping Missouri jobs, and would help keep our electric rates low."
David Klindt, vice president of the Association of Missouri Electric Cooperatives, and Phil Wright, director of the Midwest Alliance for Renewable Energy, were testified in favor of the legislation. Wright said the technology would create "concentric rings of economic development."
"We talk about this all the time, poop to power" Wright said. "[This would] provide little mini power plants all over, and create small businesses around that."
P.J. Wilson, director of Renew Missouri, the organization that created the voter-approved Proposition C, said there are no existing farms collecting methane gas from livestock waste for energy use in Missouri, but plans are in place to move forward. Wilson also said he built a anaerobic digester while in Costa Rica for three hogs. Wilson said an amount that small would probably not be financially feasible in Missouri, and that programs are in place to identify appropriate sizes.
Wilson said methane gas from animal waste was left out of Proposition C after being "identified as a potentially controversial source of energy." According to Wilson, unlike solar or wind powered energy, methane gas collected from animal waste is not a inarguably renewable. Livestock have to be fed and cared for, and the fuel that goes into these tasks can draw from the benefits associated with anaerobic digestion.
"What's really the environmental impact?" Wilson said.
Rep. Tom Loehner, R-Koeltztown, said his priority was keeping costs low for citizens, whether it was through solar, wind, or methane gas powered energy.
"Since we're talking about animal waste, in a better word, crap runs downhill, and the guy on the end is gonna pay the bill, and the guy on the end is our consumers," Loehner said. "That's what we need to look at."
The committee took no immediate action on the proposal.