JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. – Rep. Rocky Miller, R-Osage Beach, has made ratemaking reform a primary tenant of his work in Jefferson City this session.
Miller has four bills related to ratemaking or energy reform practices. One bill hopes to ease modernization of the state’s electric grid and another would exempt small municipalities from the Net Metering and Easy Connection Act. Perhaps the most impactful bill is HB 2689, which would institute a comprehensive state energy plan (CSEP).
The bill passed through the House last week and has already been referred to the Senate Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy, and the Environment.
The CSEP, Miller argues, is designed to streamline the process for the Public Service Commission (PSC), but its most important provision allows aluminum smelters and their power providers to file joint applications to the PSC to set an aluminum smelter rate. This language would directly benefit the bankrupt Noranda Aluminum.
“Their biggest expense is electric because it takes a great deal of electricity to produce aluminum, so that’s what they’re looking at to keep the cost down,” Miller said. “They’ve been fighting for that… the entire time I’ve been in the House.”
Miller noted that the current rate for aluminum makes it difficult for smelters to remain competitive on the world stage. The new bill would make the rate the sixth lowest global rate for aluminum smelters, excluding China.
When Mike Griffin, a vice president for Noranda, testified on a similar bill of Miller’s last month, he confirmed that these pieces of legislation could be the last, best hope for the company.
“The existing power contract was far above the world average for smelting electricity contracts, and all the efficiencies, benchmark practices can’t make up for that,” Griffin said. “This is the only chance to give the families in the bootheel a fighting chance.”
The other provisions of the bill would enable provisions designed to make electricity rates more competitive for businesses and allow for the imposition of earnings caps, rate caps, performance standards for electric companies, and most importantly, streamline the PSC process.
“What we’re seeing right now is the fact that there’s a great deal of interest to simplify and streamline the Public Service Commission hearing process and this is a way to do it,” Miller said.
There is also a 10-year sunset on the bill, and as statute would mean it can be altered. Miller believes those provisions will give it a better chance of making it through the Senate in the next month.
“I’m feeling really good about it, and I think it’s going to make it out of the Senate and make it over to here,” Miller said.