ICC Tells Ameren To Lower Rates
Utility regulators say Ameren Illinois needs to lower its electricity delivery rate in 2014.
The (Decatur) Herald & Review reports the Illinois Commerce Commission says the utility needs to cut its delivery rate by $45 million.
The decision was announced Monday during an annual review and is set to take effect starting Jan. 1. Ameren officials say they're still reviewing the ruling.
They had planned to lower the delivery rate by $37 million. Beth Bosch is a spokeswoman for the ICC. She said the rate cut was needed because utility "overcollected'' on its previous rates.
The ICC is set to meet next week to discuss Ameren's natural gas delivery rate.
Ameren has about 1.2 million electric customers and about 800,000 natural gas customers in central and southern Illinois.
State regulators have given Ameren permission to acquire the right-of-way to build a 380-mile-long transmission line across Illinois.
A new testing center unveiled Wednesday at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign will give businesses the chance to test out smart grid technologies like household appliances, electric cars, and transformers.
The Illinois Commerce Commission has given the go-ahead to a high-voltage Ameren transmission line that includes Douglas and Piatt Counties.
Ameren Illinois has filed a request with the Illinois Commerce Commission to raise its delivery rates on natural gas. The company says it seeks an additional $50 million in cost recovery for delivering natural gas to customers.
A citizen's watchdog group says it will appeal Ameren's latest rate hike.
On Tuesday, The Illinois Commerce Commission granted the utility a $30-million request - roughly 60-percent of what it originally wanted for natural gas delivery rates. The request before the ICC was filed 11 months ago.
Ameren spokesman Leigh Morris says Ameren doesn't make any money on the natural gas itself. He says the utility is still determing what impact the hike will have on bills. Delivery rates impact a third of a customer's natural gas bill.
Morris says it's a matter of calculating what are called tariffs through Ameren's old CILCO, CIPS, and Ameren IP territories.
"They're a matter of public record, and will be available both on our website (www.AmerenIllinois.com), and they're in a filing with the Illinois Commerce Commission," Morris said.
Citizens Utility Board spokesman Jim Chilsen questions the company's need for the hike when its parent company reported 3rd quarter earnings of more than $380-million. He says the ruling threatens to wipe out potential savings due to a mild winter.
"It's the absolute worst time for a rate hike, with the economy the way it is," said Chilsen. "We are pleased that it appears the company didn't get as much as it wanted. But we're disappointed with today's (Tuesday's) ruling because it gave the company more than it needed or deserved."
In the next few weeks, Chilsen says CUB will ask the ICC to re-hear the case. If the argument is rejected, the Commerce Commission can appeal that decision as well.
Morris says he expects the increase will show up on bills by February.
Ameren is disputing news reports that its latest filing for electric delivery rates in Illinois amounts to a rate hike.
But spokesman Leigh Morris said some customers would see an increase in delivery rates, but not others. He says this is the first rate application Ameren is seeking in connection with an upgrade of the electric grid --- and he said it's based on a new formula that accepts a lower return on equity and accounts for lower interest rates.
"This is based on actual spending," Morris said. "There's not forecasting involved with this. And this rate case will result in an overall reduction of approximately $19 million. That's an annual number."
However, Morris said customers in Ameren Illinois' Rate Zone Two - the former CILCO territory - will see an increase in rates. He said the other two zones, which serve former Illinois Power and CIPS customers, would see modest decreases in their rates.
But a spokesman with the Citizens Utility Board said there's more to the latest Ameren rate case than an initial change in rates. Jim Chilsen said the Ameren filing also sets the stage for Ameren's rate structure throughout the rollout of the improved electrical grid.
"Consumer advocates need to get involved, and need to make sure that Ameren is sticking to the law and that Ameren is being fair to consumers," Chilsen said. "And this is one of the biggest cases that we'll ever deal with, because it's determining what this formula will be that will determine rates for up to the next decade."
Morris said the rate filing with the Illinois Commerce Commission replaces a rate hike request filed last February. The new filing covers the first $17 million of what will eventually be $625 million in electric grid improvements over the next decade. If approved, the new rates should take effect in October.
Morris said consumers will be able to learn how the rate request would affect their personal electric bills starting Feb. 1. He said Ameren customers will be able to use the online rate estimator at IllinoisRateFaces.com, or call Ameren Customer Service at 1-800-755-5000.