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.