ST. LOUIS, March 31, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- Ameren Missouri filed today with the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) requests to adjust its electric and natural gas base rates next year.
The new rates would take effect in 2022 to reflect major upgrades to electric and natural gas system reliability and resiliency for customers, as well as investments to support the transition to cleaner energy for the benefit of customers and local communities.
Ameren Missouri customers have seen rate decreases in recent years, including two electric base rate decreases since 2017 and a natural gas rate decrease in 2019. Electric rates today are 8.3% lower than they were in 2017.
If approved by regulators, the rate adjustment in 2022 would cost an average electric customer about $12 a month (based on approximately 1,029 kilowatt-hours of usage per month). For Ameren Missouri's natural gas customers, largely located in central and southeast Missouri, the adjustment in base rates would cost about $4 a month for the average residential customer. If approved, the new electric rate request reflects a 5.4% total increase over an almost five-year period, a yearly average of approximately 1%.
"Customers are experiencing better reliability and benefiting from cleaner energy because of infrastructure upgrades," said Marty Lyons, president of Ameren Missouri, a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation, (NYSE: AEE). "Following a thorough review by the PSC, rates reflecting recent electric grid upgrades and new renewable generation won't take effect until 2022. Due to COVID-19, we delayed our rate review requests associated with these investments. We've also been reducing our expenses to keep costs as low as possible, which is why our electric rates are well below the average in other Midwest states and across the country, and are positioned to remain relatively low even after this adjustment."
Lyons said Ameren Missouri's investments have made a difference for customers. For example, Ameren Missouri has accelerated smart technology upgrades, which are delivering up to 40% improvement in reliability on circuits with the new technology. The value of these investments was also demonstrated by the company's system performance during the extremely cold weather in February that stressed the electric grid and natural gas systems in parts of the United States.
"As the weather created challenges in several areas of the country, Ameren Missouri did not experience any significant reliability issues," Lyons said. "Investments in infrastructure pay off every day for our customers in terms of improved system performance and reliability. We are seeing fewer outages with shorter durations."
"We're working to keep rates as low as possible, while building a stronger, smarter and cleaner energy system for our customers," said Warren Wood, vice president of regulatory and legislative affairs at Ameren Missouri. "That means making necessary and prudent investments in the system our customers depend on, while continuously finding ways to reduce our operational costs. Finding the right balance is critical to meeting the needs of our customers today, while transitioning to a stronger, smarter, cleaner, more reliable and resilient grid for future generations."
Key components of the rate review requests include:
- Eliminating processing fees for customers paying their energy bills by credit card, saving those customers approximately $1.10-$1.85 per transaction.
- Strengthening the grid through Ameren Missouri's Smart Energy Plan, including infrastructure upgrades bolstering reliability and resiliency, more renewable generation, installation of smart meters, and the addition of programs to stimulate economic growth for communities across the state.
- Investing in state-of-the-art wind generation, including the acquisition of the Missouri-based High Prairie and Atchison renewable energy centers that make Ameren Missouri the largest operator of wind generation in the state.
- Advancing the retirement of coal-fired energy centers, while ensuring the energy system remains reliable and resilient.
- Expanding rate options to offer choices that fit a customer's lifestyle, thanks to how smart meters communicate with the updated grid. Customer benefits include the opportunity to save on their bill by using information from their smart meter to help shift the timing of their energy usage, quicker restoration after outages and faster connection when moving or starting service.
- Making Ameren Missouri's popular Community Solar program permanent and allowing eligible customers to enroll up to 100% of their energy use in the program at a locked-in rate. The expanded solar program also works in step with new rate options enabled by the smart meters Ameren Missouri is installing.
- Enhancing Ameren Missouri's natural gas infrastructure system to increase safety, efficiency and resiliency.
While upgrading the electric grid, Ameren Missouri has been able to keep rates stable and affordable for customers, with residential rates more than 20% below national and Midwest averages, according to the Edison Electric Institute Typical Bills and Average Rates Report. Ameren Missouri has reduced electric rates in two previous rate adjustments – a 6% reduction in 2018 and a 1.5% reduction in 2020. The last natural gas rate review occurred in 2019 and resulted in a 1.34% rate decrease.
To help customers who have faced financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ameren Missouri provided $5 million in energy assistance to families across the state and voluntarily enacted a moratorium on disconnections in 2020. Ameren Missouri continues to offer energy assistance grants and flexible payment options for those struggling to pay their bills. Ameren Missouri also is helping customers gain access to critical government and community assistance funding programs through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
"We know there are many families who have been deeply impacted by the pandemic and need help to make ends meet," Lyons said. "We care about our customers and want them to know we are here to help in this critical time of need. Any customers struggling to pay their bills should contact us today for access to energy assistance grants and to arrange flexible payment options."
Ameren Missouri's request will be carefully reviewed by the PSC and many other stakeholders during a process that can take up to 11 months. A decision by the PSC on this rate adjustment is expected with new rates effective early next year.
Ameren Missouri has been providing electric and gas service for more than 100 years, and the company's electric rates are among the lowest in the nation. Ameren Missouri's mission is to power the quality of life for its 1.2 million electric and 134,000 natural gas customers in central and eastern Missouri. The company's service area covers 64 counties and more than 500 communities, including the greater St. Louis area. For more information, visit Ameren.com/Missouri or follow us on Twitter at @AmerenMissouri or Facebook.com/AmerenMissouri.
SOURCE Ameren Missouri