For immediate release Contact: Andrew Linhares, Renew Missouri
March 15, 2022 [email protected], (314) 471-9973
ADVOCATES PUSHED BACK AGAINST AMEREN MISSOURI’S RATE INCREASE TO SECURE EXPANSIONS OF LOW-INCOME PROGRAMS, OTHER PRIORITIES
St. Louis, MO – Two recent orders from the Missouri Public Service Commission helped mitigate the impact of Ameren Missouri’s recent rate increase for struggling families. Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest electric utility, filed for a $299 million rate increase that would have added $12 per month to the average electric bill. A coalition of consumer groups and energy efficiency advocates pushed back against the rate increase, lowering it to $220 million and securing a collective set of priorities that will help the most vulnerable families who have experienced severe utility debt and disconnections as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result of a settlement, Ameren Missouri must expand its “Keeping Current” program, which helps lower-income families reduce their utility debt and maintain service, doubling its budget from $2 million to $4 million per year, with Ameren’s shareholders contributing half. Ameren must also add May and September and expand program eligibility to 300% of the Federal Poverty level to reflect greater demand for utility assistance. Additionally, despite large commercial/industrial customers’ stance that residential customers should pay a larger share, the PSC determined that the rate increase will be apportioned equally.
Jackie Hutchinson with the Consumers Council of Missouri was one of the advocates pushing for expansions to the Keeping Current program, along with other priorities. Hutchinson stated: “This increase in Keeping Current/Keeping Cool Funding helps us protect the health and safety of our most vulnerable residents, those over 65 living on limited fixed incomes and low-income families with children 5 and under. It also expands our ability to serve families with higher income who struggle to pay due to high energy burdens.”
The settlement also commits Ameren to: 1) launching a new “Critical Needs” pilot program to deliver focused assistance to individuals living with certain medical conditions; 2) launching a rehousing pilot program which will use existing bill assistance resources in order to rehouse individuals and families and return their utility service; 3) reducing late fees to 1% per month; 4) maintaining the monthly residential customer charge at $9, rather than a proposed increase; and 5) collecting and sharing aggregated customer usage data with stakeholders for use in a study on energy burdens across Ameren’s territory.
This settlement and the community support it now includes are the direct result of the collaboration of Missouri community advocates, which included: the Missouri Energy Efficiency for All coalition, Consumers Council of Missouri, Legal Services of Eastern Missouri, Homes for All St. Louis, and others. The group’s demands were voiced at local public hearings and in written public comments submitted by renters and advocates who insisted that their pandemic hardships be met with equitable solutions. For more information about how customers can seek assistance through the Keeping Current program and other opportunities, please refer to the Utility Resource Guide below.