Ameren Mo. to increase gas rates

Starting this month, Callaway County residential natural gas customers of Ameren Missouri will pay an average of $3.30 more each month for natural gas service.

Ameren Missouri natural gas customers in Callaway County include residents of Auxvasse, New Bloomfield, Holts Summit and Lake Mykee. Fulton provides natural gas service to its residents through a municipal gas service.

The Missouri Public Service Commission has approved an agreement between the Office of Public Counsel, the PSC staff, the Missouri Department of Natural Resources and Ameren Missouri that permits the natural gas rate increase.

The agreement approved by the state agency that regulates natural gas service rates authorizes Ameren Missouri a net increase of about $5.6 million in annual non-gas operating revenues. Non-gas costs include operating and maintenance expenses and a return on investments in the natural gas mains and service lines that carry natural gas to the homes and businesses of Ameren’s customers.

The actual cost of natural gas that Ameren Missouri receives from wholesale suppliers is not regulated by the PSC and is not part of this rate case. Natural gas wholesale price increases or decreases are passed on to residential and commercial customers automatically without PSC regulatory approval. About 60-70 percent of a customer’s natural gas bill reflects the cost of natural gas from wholesale pipeline suppliers.

The rate increase just approved reflects Ameren Missouri’s investments in infrastructure and other increased costs of providing natural gas service to customers. Ameren Missouri’s last general rate increase for gas service infrastructure costs was in March of 2007. The average residential customer rate hike of about $3.30 a month went into effect Feb. 1.

Under the agreement, Ameren Missouri will continue to provide various energy conservation and efficiency programs. Up to $850,000 will be spent on natural gas efficiency programs each year for natural gas energy efficiency programs, including those that involve weatherization for low-income natural gas heating customers.

“Energy efficiency programs are vital in helping empower customers to control their energy costs,” said PSC Chairman Robert M. Clayton III. “In several rate cases during the past few years, the commission has approved creation of advisory groups to examine energy efficiency issues in order to give consumers the tools they need to take more control of their energy costs.”

Ameren Missouri also will continue its Missouri Energy Efficient Natural Gas and Building Shell Measure Rebate Program. The program provides rebates to residential customers for the installation of high efficiency heating systems and thermostats.

Ameren Missouri filed its rate increase request with the PSC on June 11, 2010, seeking an increase of $11.9 million. The PSC denied most of the increase, improving only $5.6 million of the request.

Ameren Missouri, which operates the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant in Callaway County near Reform, serves a total of 126,000 natural gas customers in Missouri.

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