St. Louis Post-Dispatch, March 23, 2013
ST. LOUIS • Ameren Missouri, fresh off a $263 million electric-rate increase in December, is asking regulators for an additional $51 million in revenue.
The adjustment would increase bills for the typical residential customer by an average of $6.07 a month beginning in June, the utility said in a filing with Missouri Public Service Commission on Friday afternoon. Ameren defines the typical customer as one who uses 12,000 kilowatt-hours a year.
Electric rates and Ameren’s profitability have come into focus in recent weeks because of legislation being pushed by investor-owned utilities that would allow them to implement surcharges to get faster payback on infrastructure projects.
The most recent request to increase revenue is part of a separate surcharge approved by the Legislature in 2005 to help utilities more quickly recover fuel costs.
St. Louis-based Ameren, which sells electricity to 1.2 million customers in Missouri, files papers three times a year for permission to adjust fuel costs up or down. Friday’s filing, known as Fuel Adjustment Charge, reflects the four-month period ended in January.
The adjustments generally reflect changes in coal and natural gas costs and purchased power expenses. Those costs are offset by any revenue the utility receives from sales of excess power to customers outside of its service area — so called “off-system sales.”
In an email response to questions, Ameren Missouri spokeswoman Rita Holmes-Bobo said the requested increase is mostly the product of slumping wholesale power prices, which have led to lower off-system sales.
Unlike a traditional electric rate case, which takes almost a year and involves a thorough audit of a utility’s books, a fuel surcharge request is processed within a few months and with less scrutiny. Only after the surcharge is implemented are the utility’s fuel purchasing practices more carefully examined during a prudence review, said Lewis Mills, Missouri’s public counsel.
Mills, whose office represents consumers in utility cases, had not yet reviewed Ameren’s filing.
The fuel surcharge appears on Ameren bills as “Rider FAC.”