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New federal law set to help Missouri rural electric co-ops pay off coal plant debt, transition to ‘green’ energy

Callaway power plant in central Missouri.
Raymond M. Coveney
Creative Commons
Callaway power plant in central Missouri.

The Inflation Reduction Act, passed by Congress in August, sets aside hundreds of billions in funding for clean energy projects. Some of the money will go toward Missouri’s rural electric cooperatives to help them transition from coal to renewables.

The new law, also known as the IRA, sets aside $970 million for rural electric cooperatives to pay down debt they owe the federal government for loans the co-ops used to build coal plants. This is about half of the $1.9 billion these groups owe the government for building the plants.

Renew Missouri, a lobbying nonprofit focused on renewable energy, said in a release it expects rural electric cooperatives to use the money to help shut down coal plants and invest in renewable energy.

James Owen, executive director of Renew Missouri, says the debt forgiveness program is optional. But he’s hopeful this will incentivize a move to cleaner energy, not just through rural co-ops — but also through utility companies and other businesses.

“I think if you’re really looking at trying to transform Missouri’s economy, southwest Missouri’s economy, as well as the country’s economy, we’re going to have to make these investments, and I think this IRA is going to go a long way to giving everyone an opportunity to take advantage of that,” Owen told KSMU. 

Owen says that a process for how cooperatives can apply for this aid has not yet been determined.

Josh Conaway is a graduate of Missouri State University with a B.A. in Political Science and an M.A. in International Affairs. He works as a news reporter and announcer at KSMU. His favorite part of the job is exploring the rich diversity of the Ozarks and meeting people with interesting stories to share. He has a passion for history and running.