Regulators zap Ameren rate hike plan

A top Missouri energy regulator gave a scathing review Tuesday of a plan to change how electric rates are set in Missouri.

Missouri Public Service Commission Staff Director Natelle Dietrich called legislation under consideration by state lawmakers a “radical departure” from the current rate-setting system during testimony before the House Energy and the Environment Committee. Dietrich suggested the bill could result in a possible 62.1 percent hike for residential customers over the course of a decade. Large industrial customers such as Anheuser-Busch or Monsanto could see a 56 percent to 94 percent increase in their rates over 10 years, she said.

Under the proposed bill, it would be easier for utilities such as Ameren to boost rates in exchange for a commitment to upgrade the electric grid. It also would give Ameren’s biggest customer, Noranda Aluminum, the ability to negotiate lower rates as a way to keep the troubled New Madrid-based smelter afloat. The 900-worker plant was idled on March 11.

Regulators argued the plan would result in higher costs for users. Mark Oligschlaeger, director of the audit division at the public service commission, said rate increases would be less than they would be under current rules for the first two years of the plan, but would be higher in the next eight years.

In the Senate, where the issue was debated this month, Senate President Pro Tem Ron Richard has expressed skepticism about the issue being resolved before the scheduled May 13 adjournment.

Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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