September 22, 2014

Utility president expresses concerns about cap-and-trade costs

Much of the attention in Washington, D.C., is focused on the health care overhaul legislation. But cap-and-trade legislation, designed to reduce carbon emissions, is still out there and one of Missouri’s largest utility companies is warning about possible consequences of that passing.

Kansas City Power & Light’s President and Chief Executive Officer Bill Downey insists the company is not opposed to cleaning our environment. In fact, he makes it clear KCP&L favors moving in the direction of a cleaner environment, but he has concerns about the path that is being proposed to get there. [Read more...]

Cold Weather Rule takes effect this weekend

Missouri’s Cold Weather Rule goes into effect Sunday, November 1st, prohibiting the disconnection of service when the temperature is forecasted to drop below 32 degrees for the following 24 hour period.

“The Cold Weather Rule is in place to help low income customers when the weather gets extremely cold,” said Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Robert Clayton in an interview with the Missourinet. “We try to have an orderly system set up to address times when perhaps low income customers cannot afford to pay their bill but it’s also very cold outside, so November 1st is when the Cold Weather Rule becomes in effect.”

[Read more...]

PSC auditors to determine whether Ameren rate hike request warranted

AmerenUE’s request for an 18 percent rate increase set the wheels in motion for Public Service Commission approval or rejection of that request. And, it’s going to be some time before commissioners sit down to discuss the merits of what Ameren wants.

Public Service Commission Chairman Robert Clayton says the PSC will respond to Ameren’s filing by sending auditors and other staff members to Ameren’s offices in St. Louis to begin studying the company’s books to determine whether an increase is warranted.

"We have to look at the evidence," said Clayton in an interview with the Missourinet. "And, keep in mind that we don’t look at the actual percentage increase – that’s not really a factor that we consider. What we look into, as the staff audits the books of the utility, is whether all the expenditures that they have asked for inclusion in rates – make sure that all of those expenditures are prudent expenditures, that they were reasonable under the circumstances. Only after that will the staff and the Commission recommend increasing rates based on those."

There is a whole array of proofs that must be presented to PSC auditors.

"They have to prove their investments," said Clayton. "They have to prove their fuel costs. They have to prove their labor costs. Anything that they say has gone up to suggest a higher utility rate they have to prove. And our staff will conduct a thorough audit to make sure those investments have actually been made."

The staff is expected to complete its investigation and report back to commissioners in about three or four months, with a recommendation regarding Ameren’s rate hike request. Ameren and the PSC would then haggle over the amount of the increase – provided one is to be granted. Clayton says an evidentiary hearing by PSC commissioners will take place in about eight months.

Download/Listen: Steve Walsh report (:60 MP3)

Ameren asking for $402 million rate hike

The state’s largest electric utility is asking for more money from its customers.

AmerenUE is filing an increase request with the Missouri Public Service Commission to raise rates by 18 percent in a bid to rake in $402 million. In a press release the utility claims this would amount to less than 50 cents per day for the average household.

The release further claims that almost half the request is driven by investments made to continue system-wide reliability improvements for customers, increases in costs essential to generating and delivering electricity, and higher financing costs. The remainder would cover higher fuel costs and lower revenues from sales outside the company’s system.

Any increase must be approved by the Public Service Commission.

NRC conducting inspection at Callaway

A special investigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is underway at the Callaway Nuclear Power Plant .

A spokesman for the NRC, Victor Dricks, says inspectors will be reviewing how the plant handled a recent problem. Operators at Callaway had problems with the turbine driven auxiliary feedwater pump during routine testing in late May. The problem was fixed on the scene by Callaway operators and the pump restarted. The pump is used to supply water to the steam generators at Callaway that kick in if the AC power is cut off.

Two NRC inspectors, one from Callaway another from the Cooper Nuclear Power Plant in Nebraska, began their work this week. It is expected the inspection will last days.

Dricks points out the problem with the pump never posed a safety hazard. He says it appears Callaway handled it correctly, but the inspectors will review the causes of the problem and the steps taken to correct it. They will file a written report to the NRC in 30 to 45 days after the inspection is complete.

The Callaway plant is Missouri’s only nuclear power plant. It is located near Fulton and operated by AmerenUE.