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PSC weighing coronavirus cost recovery options


JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s Public Service Commission (PSC) is collecting data on economic disruptions and customer billing as COVID-19 cases rise across the state. 

Commission Staff was ordered to begin gathering data on utility disconnections last September, filing reports with monthly statistics on overdue bills, final disconnection notices, and the number of customers participating in payment plans. Initially in place for six months, the order was extended in December, and Staff requested another six-month extension.

The commission extended the order through February during Wednesday’s agenda meeting, noting the influx in coronavirus cases and ongoing economic concerns. 

Commissioners denied St. James Solar Farm Association’s request to adopt a net metering rule to govern a cooperative electric energy generation system, a request Staff said was outside the scope of the commission’s authority. The rule would govern member-owned electric cooperatives and municipal utilities while the PSC’s authority only extends to investor-owned utility providers. 

Commissioners voted to reject the proposal, citing the limits of their authority and concerns from Staff. Other Missouri utilities, including Ameren and Evergy, also opposed the proposal for exceeding the commission’s scope.

The PSC also voted to replace two area codes once they are exhausted. The commission adopted overlay relief plans in 2000 to deal with the anticipated exhaustion of the 314 and 816 area codes but delayed the plan in 2001 in order to test number conservation plans. The issue remained null until the numbers once again neared exhaustion in June so the commission voted to implement the replacement numbers once capacity was reached. 

Finally, the commission analyzed lingering concerns from Staff over Ameren Missouri’s triannual integrated resource plan (IRP) filing. The forms provide the PSC with the company’s plans for cost-effective ways to meet rising energy demand, outlining environmental impact mitigation strategies and customer programs. 

The commission disagreed with alleged deficiencies with Ameren’s greenhouse gas mitigation strategies and customer outreach but requested more work to reduce customer risk before approving the plan.

The next PSC agenda meeting is scheduled for Aug. 18.