A dispute between Ameren and its largest customer in Missouri is commanding attention from consumer groups, cities and even the world’s largest retailer, creating unusual alliances in the process. Noranda Aluminum Holding Corp., which operates a smelter in New Madrid that employs 888 people, is seeking sharply lower electric rates, something it says it needs to preserve jobs in an economically depressed corner of the state.
If granted, the rate cut to this one business — from 4.1 cents per kilowatt hour to 3 cents — would raise the cost of electricity by at least 1.8 percent for Ameren’s other customers in Missouri, according to a regulatory filing. Despite that, some high-profile Missouri consumer advocates are on Noranda’s side because the company is also accusing Ameren of earning millions of dollars more than the 9.8 percent return on equity allowed by the PSC.
Consumer groups could have filed a complaint and asked for a rate reduction when the excess earnings were first identified, but they didn’t because of the high cost to do so.