Category: Utilities

PSC Decision Lets Ameren Keep Charging Consumers For Construction

Along with a $260 million rate increase, Ameren Missouri will be allowed to continue to charge customers for the rising costs of transmission projects still under construction. Currently, the costs are about $26 million but are expected to rise 24 percent each year.

On Wednesday, the Missouri Public Service Commission approved a $260 million rate increase for Ameren, about two-thirds of what the company had sought. The hike goes into effect Jan. 2.

Ameren officials were contacted for this article but were unable to comment.

Although it is illegal in Missouri to charge customers for construction projects that have not yet brought in revenue, the PSC, which rules on utility rate cases, decided that costs related to the construction of transmission facilities belong in the customers’ fuel adjustment charge (FAC). Ameren had been placing those costs in the customer fuel charge since they began  in January 2012.

Midwestern Independent System Operators

The commission ruled that the charges should be allowed because the costs are imposed on Ameren by the Midwestern Independent System Operators, a regional transmission organization that works to provide safe, reliable and affordable electricity within 11 states and a Canadian province.

Still that decision rankles some.

Former state Sen. Joan Bray, who is now the chair of the Consumers Council of Missouri, asked, “What can they do within state law? Can they completely usurp it? I find it very troubling.”

Bray said that the members of the Consumers Council of Missouri will explore  how they can get the issue sorted out on behalf of customers.

Read more here. https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/28481/ameren_fuel_charges_decision?coverpage=2330

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Ameren Seeks Another Surcharge

This new surcharge follows historic rate increases which between 2006 and the end of 2013 will cost Ameren customers $2.8 billion due to fuel surcharges passed by the legislature and rate hikes approved by the Public Service Commission. To read this bill, go to www.house.mo.gov/billcentral.aspx.

FERAF, of which Consumers Council is a founding member, has also announced its opposition to SB207.

Consumer Group Will Fight Proposed New Surcharge on Missourians’ Electric Bills

Jefferson City, MO – The Fair Energy Rate Action Fund (FERAF) today announced its opposition to a new surcharge on electric bills being proposed in legislation being pushed by Missouri utilities. The new surcharge in SB 207 would cover everything from transmission to new energy generation.

An analysis by FERAF shows that if this surcharge had been in place since 2007, it would have cost Ameren Missouri consumers at a minimum an additional $200 million on their electric bills above and beyond what they already paid. This doesn’t include how much more business and residential customers would have paid to the other investor owned utilities.

This proposed surcharge comes on the heels of historic rate increases in Missouri. From 2006 to the end of 2013 customers served by Ameren will have paid roughly $2.8 billion more to the company due to the fuel surcharge passed by legislators and a series of rate hikes approved by the Public Service Commission.

This current proposal would make it even easier for investor-owned utilities to raise rates on Missourians by bypassing the traditional ratemaking process and instead engaging in single-issue ratemaking. Single-issue ratemaking causes rates to rise dramatically because it only allows regulators to consider costs by utilities in a single area, like infrastructure, as opposed to considering all factors, including possible areas of savings, as in a traditional rate case.

If utilities are able to engage in single-issue ratemaking on both their fuel and infrastructure costs, which make up the vast majority of their rate base, the duties of the Missouri Public Service Commission will become practically obsolete. These rate increases will become automatic with no discretion from the Commission and shift the burden of proof that currently rests with the utilities to show why they need a rate increase to the residential and business consumers that will be overcharged.

Many credit Missouri’s fair ratemaking process in holding down utility costs. Both consumer and business energy consumers warn that the new infrastructure surcharge could undermine Missouri’s economic advantage, crucial in today’s business climate and tight budget times being experienced by senior citizens, persons with disabilities, and low wage working families.

“Adding an expensive new surcharge to Missouri families and businesses electric bills is one of the worst things lawmakers could do in our current economy,” said Chris Roepe, FERAF Executive Director. “The impact on the pocketbooks of Missouri families and businesses cannot be ignored. The last thing Missourians need is for the legislature to allow another surcharge to be added to their electric bill.”

The state legislature already authorized a fuel surcharge added to many Missourians’ electric bills. This surcharge has already cost Missourians $478 Million since 2006, when utilities were permitted to assess it. This newly proposed surcharge would be even more costly to consumers because the utilities virtually restrict nothing in what may be included in the surcharge.

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Ameren Hikes Rates, Surcharges $1.1 Billion During Recession – Now It’s Asking Legislature To Get In Your Pocket Again

Since 2007 consumers have paid Ameren Missouri a cumulative total of more than $2.8 billion in higher rates and fuel surcharges. That means the average family is paying $400 more a year for electricity.

Now Ameren and the other electric companies are asking Missouri lawmakers to pass Senate Bill 207 to give them yet another surcharge. Ameren’s income will go up at least $350 million, and the average family will be paying $125 more.

Click on Take Action > Action Alerts to find out more about this new surcharge and how you can tell your senator how BAD it is for consumers!

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CCM Files To Intervene In Laclede Gas Rate Case

Consumers Counsel of Missouri filed papers Monday, January 14, 2013, to participate in the process in which Laclede Gas Co. is asking to increase the rates it charges customers.  The company is asking for an increase of $48.4 million a year, which will cost the average residential customer $4.93 a month.  The case takes place before the Public Service Commission.

As the case proceeds CCM will be asking the public to participate through testimony at public hearings and letters to the PSC.  Watch for more details on this website.

Read more details at this link.

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Chair Gunn Leaving Public Service Commission

St. Louis Beacon, January 16, 2013

The head of the Missouri Public Service Commission will depart from his post later this spring, a move that will cause another vacancy for the powerful agency that regulates the state’s utilities.

Kevin Gunn, a Webster Groves native, told the Beacon on Wednesday he will leave the PSC on or around March 1. Among other things, the commission is responsible for deciding utility cases as well as crafting and enforcing various administrative rules.

Gunn’s decision gives Gov. Jay Nixon another opportunity to appoint somebody to the five-person PSC. Earlier this month, he appointed former state Sen. Bill Kenney, R-Jackson County, to fill a vacancy.

In an interview, Gunn said that he had spoken with Nixon about leaving the PSC before the most recent election. But he decided to stay on to finish up some pressing matters before the commission.

While he is planning to leave March 1, Gunn said he’d be willing to stay longer if necessary.

Gunn said family concerns — and the grind of commuting from the St. Louis area to Jefferson City every week — were a factor.

He said he would rather be “more involved watching my boys grow up instead of driving an hour and 45 minutes to be in Jeff City on a regular basis.”

“I’ve been doing this for about five years. We’ve done a lot a good stuff. The agency is in really good shape. And we’ve gotten pastAmeren and Kansas City Power and Light – we’ve gotten past these big rate cases,” he said. “My kids are 10 and 7, and I’m kind of looking forward to getting back to St. Louis.”

Gunn stressed that he didn’t have a job lined up or any specific idea of what he plans to do next. State statutes, he said, prohibit him from taking job solicitations from law firms with clients under the PSC’s jurisdiction. He also said that he must wait at least year before lobbying or appearing before the PSC.

“The beauty of this and the fortunate place I’m at in my life is that I have the ability to take a little bit of time to figure out what’s next,” Gunn said. “And so, I am going to take that time. I haven’t foreclosed any possibility. I think the most likely possibility is the private sector. But I really haven’t foreclosed anything. The rules are set up so that you don’t trade on this office. And that’s something that I’m steadfastly trying not to do. I want to make sure I do everything right.”

Among other things, Gunn was a longtime aide to then-U.S. Rep. Dick Gephardt, D-St. Louis. He also was elected during the 2000s to the Webster Groves City Council.

Gunn was actively raising money in 2007 to run for a state Senate seat then held by Senate President Pro Tem Michael Gibbons, R-Kirkwood. But that bid ended when Gov. Matt Blunt, a Republican, tapped Gunn to the PSC — a move that left Senate Democrats fuming.He was eventually confirmed though, and Nixon made him the chairman of the PSC in 2011.

In addition to helping decide various rate cases and crafting the guidelines for a renewable energy mandate, Gunn also was involved in the long-running legislative discussion over bills aimed at building another nuclear reactor in Callaway County.

Gunn said serving on the PSC was “best job he ever had,” adding that it was the “perfect intersection of law and public policy.” But he also said that doing job correctly meant making a lot of people unhappy.

“You are granting rate increases, because the law requires you to do that and utilities need that and because the job requires you to do that, even though you know you’re in tough economic times, even though you know that there may be individuals who may not be able to afford that. That’s the hardest part,” Gunn said.

“And you’re saying this is going to be very hard for these people in the next six months or the next year,” he added. “But what you try to do is make decisions that are going to benefit all consumers and utilities and all businesses and all ratepayers – not only in the next year but in the next 20 years or the next 30 years.”

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Ameren Includes New, Questionable Costs In Customer Fuel Charge

St. Louis Beacon, December 11, 2012

Even though Missouri law bars utilities from charging their customers for construction projects that haven’t produced any power, Ameren Missouri has tacked $10 million onto Missouri customers’ bills for power lines that it hasn’t even started to build yet.

The utility estimates that this cost will increase to $53 million by 2016.

The Public Service Commission staff and Office of Public Counsel, which represents the ratepayer in these hearings, had been unaware of a significant portion of these charges until after they had begun to flow into the customers’ bills.

On Wednesday, the PSC approved a $260 million rate increase for Ameren Missouri, about two-thirds of what the company had sought. The hike goes into effect Jan. 2.

Read more here. 

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