Ameren, energy companies begin push for raising rates for infrastructure funding

Missouri News Horizon

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri energy companies made their case Tuesday for legislation that would allow them to raise rates to fund infrastructure projects.

Sen. Mike Kehoe presented the legislation — Senate Bill 207 — to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Tuesday afternoon, where he called on lawmakers to allow investor owned energy companies to raise rates to fund already completed projects.

“The upcoming need for infrastructure is our energy cliff,” he said. The legislation, “if done right, can be an effective way to fix aging infrastructure.”

Kehoe noted in his testimony that 105 of 109 lawmakers in the Missouri General Assembly have cosponsored support the bill.

Missouri’s investor owned energy companies — including Kansas City Power and Light, Empire District Electric, and Ameren — pushed a united front in favor of the legislation before the committee.

“Our alliance is a true collaboration,” said Warner Baxter, chairman and CEO of Ameren. “We certainly need to invest in our aging infrastructure.”

Still, critics of the legislation fear it could hurt energy consumers. Sen. Jason Holsman questioned Baxter about his concern that the bill would allow Ameren a back door to funding projects they had previously sought funding for — like expansion of the nuclear facility in Callaway County, or to establish the company’s proposed small modular reactor program.

Baxter said the legislation — which caps the amount that energy companies can request the Public Service Commission to raise rates — “contains all the consumer protections that have been there in the last decade.”

Baxter, as well as the bill’s other supporters, said the bill allows energy companies the same access to an infrastructure system replacement surcharge (known as “ISRS”) already available to gas and water companies.

Maurice Brubaker, a regulatory consultant with Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers — a group representing companies like Noranda Aluminum, one of Ameren’s largest customers — said the legislation was concerning to consumrs.

“At first it sounded like ISRS, but it is anything but that,” he said. “Water and gas is very limited.”