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Ameren looking to raise electric and gas rates

If approved by state regulators, the monthly rate hike will begin at the end of February

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — After months of back and forth with consumer advocacy groups and other parties, Ameren Missouri could be nearing approval to increase monthly utility rates.

Ameren Missouri's current proposal is to increase electric rate revenues by $220 million a year. The utility said if the state's Public Service Commission approves the increase, the average customer would see a monthly increase to their electric bill of $8.80.

Ameren is also proposing to increase natural gas rates $1.69 per month for the average residential customer.

The Public Service Commission is holding an evidentiary hearing Thursday and Friday in Jefferson City to determine the exact rate increase. Pending approval, Ameren said customers will start seeing the new rates begin on Feb. 28, 2022.

Ameren Missouri said the rate increases are needed to pay for investments the company has already made to its system.

"Covers costs like replacing substations past their life, replacing wires that have gotten old, smart energy products that improve reliability and resiliency for customers," said Tom Byrne, senior director of regulatory affairs for Ameren Missouri.

READ ALSO: How to save money heating your home as rate hikes loom

The rate review case has been months in the making. Ameren Missouri originally filed for a rate increase back in March. The company at the time proposed a rate hike of $12 a month for the average electric customer and $5 for natural gas customers. But after months of negotiations with concerned parties who represent residential, industrial and commercial customers, the rate increases have been lowered to the current proposal.

"We recognize some of our most vulnerable customers might have difficulty paying higher rates for electric service, even though it's based on what we believe are important investments in reliability,” said Byrne.

Byrne said the last two electric rate adjustments for Ameren have been decreases and Ameren’s rates are about 20% less than the national average. He also said Ameren has several options for customers who are struggling to pay their utility bills.

"The opportunities for people who need assistance to get that assistance have never been better," said Byrne.

Gentry Trotter with Heat Up St. Louis, an organization that helps people with utility assistance, said he’s seeing a 60% increase in people needing assistance compared to last year. He points to the pandemic as being a culprit.

"We still have a problem with affordability, we still have the problem with unemployment, we still have a problem with uncertainty," Trotter said.

Trotter agreed with Ameren's take on the amount of help that is available for people struggling to make ends meet.

"There are enough federal and public sector funds to help mitigate the increases people are about to experience," Trotter said.

Trotter said his organization works closely with Ameren and other utility companies to make sure people don't get disconnected. He said it's important for people needing assistance to make sure they reach out to Heat Up St. Louis or to Ameren directly as soon as there are any signs of trouble.

"If there is an increase, whatever it turns out to be, we can work together to make sure people get the help they need," Trotter said.

Learn more about Ameren's Energy Assistance programs here.

To learn more about Heat Up St. Louis or to make a donation to the organization click here.

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