You can’t stop what is fundamentally economic reality. The market always wins in the long run.

That was the message keynote speaker Don Wood delivered last week at an Ameren event designed to showcase a group of energy startup companies the power company is cultivating.

Wood, a venture capitalist who specializes in energy innovation startups, made the case that new technology and lower renewable energy costs will usher in an era of lower energy costs for consumers.

Wood wasn’t making a bold prediction. The trend is clear. The falling cost of solar, wind power and energy storage is changing the energy generation paradigm in the United States.

What was once an industry dominated by a coal-powered generation is being overtaken by cheaper natural gas and renewable energy production. The advent of new technologies, which are empowering (no pun intended) a smarter energy grid, is allowing consumers to manage their energy consumption more efficiently.

Natural gas is now cheaper than coal to produce electricity. By 2022, onshore wind power is projected to be nearly half the cost of natural gas.

The country’s energy future will not be powered by coal.

Ameren understands the energy market realities which is why it is converting some of its older plants from coal to natural gas and promoting cutting-edge energy startups through its accelerator program.

The company recently announced it was investing millions in wind and solar technology, which will reduce its carbon emissions by 50 percent by 2040.

Ameren doesn’t have a choice. You either embrace innovation and market trends or be overtaken by them.

In Missouri, coal fueled 83 percent of Missouri’s net electricity generation in 2014, 78 percent in 2015 and 77 percent in 2016. Renewable energy resources accounted for 3.4 percent of our state’s net electricity generation in 2016, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The shift away from coal to cheaper energy sources in Missouri and the country is clear. It may not be as fast as some would like, but the market will win in the long run.