PSC approves electric rate cuts effective next month, Ameren rates cut by 6 percent

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Customers of Ameren Missouri can expect to see an electric rate cut of more than six percent following a vote by the Missouri Public Service Commission.

The PSC on Thursday unanimously cast votes to put the reductions on the fast track, which comes as part of SB 564, a package deal of utility reform legislation that had been passed by the Missouri General Assembly back in May.

Lower rates were expected, due to the reduced corporate tax rate passed by the U.S. Congress in late 2017, but Missouri legislators added in a provision to Sen. Ed Emery’s bill requiring the rate cuts to be passed on within 90 days, instead of the more common and longer review typically conducted by the PSC and its staff.

Ameren estimates the rate cut to come in at roughly $166 million, or nearly 6.1 percent, a much higher rate cut than the earlier anticipated estimates of 4.9 percent.

“For years customers have expressed a need for more stable and predictable rates, while at the same time modernizing our grid by making it more resilient to outages,” Ameren said in an issued statement. “Over the last few weeks, Ameren Missouri has worked closely with the PSC staff to ensure that the benefits of the federal tax reduction are quickly provided to customers. The 6% rate cut announced today by the Missouri Public Service Commission shows that the bipartisan legislation, which overwhelmingly passed the Missouri legislature less than two months ago, is already having an immediate impact on behalf of our customers.”

Passing SB 564, however, was no easy task. Utility legislation has, for years now, been one of the most contentious items to appear on the floors for debate.

This year proved to be much the same, with the legislation facing a 24-hour filibuster back in February, but eventually came to a close with a bartered deal to put rate caps in place.

Proponents of the bill argued that the streamlining of the rate-raising process will allow the companies to recoup their costs for infrastructure investments and grid modernization more quickly. Ameren has stated that the legislation will support $1 billion worth of new infrastructure investments through 2023, with a rate freeze through April 2020.

Opponents of the utility legislation later wanted the chance to work out a better deal, saying the negotiations had been completed with the opposition being “held at gunpoint” as Sen. Rob Schaaf put it.

However, the Senate could not reach a new deal with the House’s version, and the House acted on SB 564 in the final days of the session, passing it with a 125-20 vote. Former Gov. Eric Greitens signed the bill before leaving office on June 1.

After going through the PSC, and receiving the approval votes, the rate reduction is now scheduled to take effect on Aug. 1.

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 benjamin@themissouritimes.com or follow him on Twitter @BenjaminDPeters.