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PSC tackles utility losses stemming from coronavirus

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — An order to further decide how utility companies will collect past-due payments after delays due to COVID-19 has been approved by Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC).

The case came after both Spire Missouri and Evergy filed requests with the commission for account authority orders (AAOs). These orders would grant the companies the authority to refer to a regulatory asset (or a specific cost a company is allowed to defer to its balance sheet) when deciding the costs and impacts resulting from changes in operation due to COVID-19.

Staff recommended to the commission that the issue be treated as a case for all applicable companies and provided questions to better clarify the investigation into how to proceed with collections. Separate questions were drafted for utility and non-utility companies to better understand their financial situations after the strains of the health crisis. 

The commission approved the order to issue questions during Wednesday’s agenda meeting and required responses from companies by July 15. The list of questions covered changes in operation due to social distancing requirements, the date that services were suspended, plans for the future, and more.

The PSC also considered a case involving Liberty-Empire. The company had submitted a tariff sheet to the commission in May, which the PSC ordered to be revised. The revisions were to establish interim fuel adjustment rates that were consistent with Liberty-Empire’s proposed rates, as the previous filing had been inconsistent. The company filed revisions in early June, and the commission approved the new version, setting a hearing in the matter for July.

The commission also examined a case regarding Ameren Missouri’s application to make regulatory changes to promote energy efficiency. Ameren had filed a notice that it was making adjustments to a number of programs in light of the COVID-19 pandemic to support small businesses and resume relationships with other companies. Changes included higher incentives for small business installations and cooling services, as well as other adjustments to make it easier for businesses to participate in Ameren’s programs.

These amendments were part of a larger case regarding Ameren’s requirements for low-income consumers to be included in its energy efficiency plan. The PSC granted a stipulation and agreement to Ameren in early June allowing for changes to its plan that would modify savings calculations for the company’s income-eligible programs. The commission agreed to Ameren’s application to make changes to small business relationships as an extension of that program.      

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for July 1. 

EDITOR’S NOTE: For up-to-date information on coronavirus, check with the CDC and DHSS.