Ameren hosts two meetings to talk rate hikes - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Ameren hosts two meetings to talk rate hikes

Several dozen people turned out for the meeting in Cape Girardeau. Several dozen people turned out for the meeting in Cape Girardeau.
Each session began with an informal question and answer session with Ameren Missouri representatives, and The Missouri Public Service Commission representatives, before testimony from the public. Each session began with an informal question and answer session with Ameren Missouri representatives, and The Missouri Public Service Commission representatives, before testimony from the public.

Ameren Missouri customers got two chances on Tuesday to talk about the recent proposed rate increase.

First, at the Osage Centre in Cape Girardeau, and second, at 6 p.m. at the Dexter High School auditorium. It was moved to the high school after a large response.

Each session began with an informal question and answer session with Ameren Missouri representatives, and The Missouri Public Service Commission representatives, before testimony from the public.

The Missouri Public Service Commission regulates investor-owned electric, natural gas, steam, water and sewer, and telephone companies. It will ultimately decide if Ameren can increase those rates.

The increase proposed by Ameren is about 14 percent and would raise the monthly rate for an Ameren customer about $14 a month or $168 per year.

Ameren says they need to increase revenues by $376 million to offset the costs of a number of things.

The company says approximately $85 million, or 23 percent, of the increase request is for investments made primarily to improve the reliability of Ameren Missouri's aging infrastructure and to comply with environmental and renewable energy regulations.

It says about 27 percent, or $103 million, of the request is for higher net fuel costs for power plants.

About $81 million, or about 22 percent, of the request is for higher costs of the company's recently proposed energy efficiency programs. Ameren Missouri says these programs are expected to provide approximately $500 million in total customer benefits over the next 20 years.

And lastly, the company says the increase rates are for additional cost increases, including those to meet renewable energy requirements, material costs, and employee benefits.

The proposal comes as the Missouri Public Service Commission approved a 7 percent rate increase for Ameren just last year.

"In recent years, we've seen significant increases in costs for us to generate electricity, but if you look prior to the last couple of years, our rates actually went down for multiple years," said Warren Woods, Ameren vice president. "Right now our rates are 12 percent higher than they were 20 years ago. Inflation over that same time period is 65 percent."

The Staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission is an independent body of professionals that consists primarily of engineers, accountants, financial analysts, economists, consumer services and management services specialists, attorneys, and others, that evaluate utility requests and provide recommendations.

The staff gave a recommendation on Ameren's request July 6, 2012. It recommended an increase of approximately $210.3 million, which is about $165.3 million less than the company's request. It would equal out to about a 9.21 percent increase, or $8.69 a month increase, for customers.

Ameren made the request in February to increase its rates. The Commission has 11 months after that time to decide. So, customers should find out by the end of the year if their Ameren rates are going up.

It's something people at the meetings Tuesday wanted to talk about.

"It's difficult every time Ameren UE turns around, they want more money, and it's becoming a more hardship, we like to be cool in the 100 degree temperature, and we like to be warm when it gets down to freezing, and its not easy to maintain that level of comfort," said Bruce L. McClintock.

Some people, like Nick Roe, questioned Ameren's tactics of surveying customers.

"They're asking these people during a time of duress, like after an ice storm, where of course they're going to want a better more reliable energy because obviously all the poles are down," said Roe.

Others said the increase will be hard for people like senior citizens.

"Well I guess I'll have to afford it, but....," said William H. Conner. "I got bills, bills, bills, I don't know where half of them come from."

"Financially it will be a hardship, because we're on a very fixed limited income with my state retirement, and I didn't get an increase in it," said McClintock. "Social Security doesn't increase...so it's difficult."

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