JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – After calls from several consumer groups in the Show-Me State for a utility rate cap, it seems that the legislation to create such a policy is primed for debate in the next legislative session.
Rep. T.J. Berry pre-filed a bill that would cap the average electric rate increases to three percent annually.
“Historically, low-energy costs have been a tremendous advantage to the Missouri economy and workers,” said Berry, R-Kearney. “But every year policymakers fail to act, rates rise and we lose more of that economic benefit. Forty-six other states have reformed their energy regulations, and are therefore able to provide better services, more efficiently. This is the year Missouri must cap electric rates while encouraging efforts to make our energy grid smarter and more secure.”
The Missouri Retailers Association, Missouri Grocers Association and the Missouri Chamber of Commerce and Industry have all issued their support for the proposed rate cap on utility increases, stating that the status quo on energy policy is hurting customers and the Missouri economy. That’s because, according to federal data, the state’s electric rates have risen faster than every state but four in the past decade.
Under the proposed legislation, titled HB 1575, the Missouri Public Service Commission would enforce the three percent rate cap on regulated utilities, and any company that was approved for a rate increase above the threshold would pay a penalty and could lose new regulatory tools.
The legislation does not change the PSC’s authority to regulate, and the burden of proof for utilities would remain the same.
In addition, HB 1575 would allow for grid modernization to move forward, an issue that has stalled in the Senate in recent years.
“The Missouri Chamber appreciates this movement towards compromise in solving Missouri’s energy challenges,” said Dan Mehan, Missouri Chamber of Commerce CEO. “The Chamber recognizes the advantage of affordable and reliable energy in retaining and attracting businesses to our state. The Missouri Chamber will support efforts and work with business leaders, utility providers, and community leaders to drive a collaborative long-term solution to address Missouri’s aging infrastructure while ensuring continued reliable energy at predictable and competitive rates for customers.”
Benjamin Peters is a reporter for the Missouri Times and Missouri Times Magazine, and also produces the #MoLeg Podcast. He joined the Missouri Times in 2016 after working as a sports editor and TV news producer in mid-Missouri. Benjamin is a graduate of Missouri State University in Springfield. To contact Benjamin, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.