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Missouri regulators approve energy efficiency rules

Missouri regulators approved new rules this past week that will give utility companies incentives to invest in promoting energy efficiency.

The administrative rules were needed to implement a state law designed to boost energy efficiency programs in Missouri. The law, approved in 2009, allows utilities to earn the same profit on an efficiency investment as they do for investments into power plants or other capital, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported Friday.

Robert Clayton, who had been the commission’s chairman until earlier this week, said the energy efficiency rules marked a new era of rate-making and policy for utility regulators. The rules — approved by a 4-1 vote earlier this week — seek to compensate utilities for programs that encourage customers to use less power.

Clayton said energy efficiency should be “one of our priorities in improving how we communicate with utility customers and as we plan for future energy needs.”

Missouri utilities have long-established energy efficiency programs, but those efforts have been slow to expand.

A draft copy of a study commissioned by the Public Service Commission estimates that Missourians could save more than $5 billion in electric and natural gas costs over the next decade through efficiency steps such as fixing drafty houses and swapping out old appliances. Regulators commissioned the report last fall, and it was produced by Massachusetts-based KEMA.

The energy analysis is expected to serve as a guide for steps to implement efficiency programs at each utility.

However, a couple utilities and a coalition of large electricity users have raised concerns about the KEMA report and the data that was used.

St. Louis-based Ameren Missouri published in January 2010 a study it commissioned that concluded there was potential for significant energy savings, but that it was less than what the KEMA report identified.

“What we really invested in was public interest surveys to determine what really drives customers to invest in energy efficiency alternatives,” said Rick Voytas, the manager of energy efficiency and demand response for the utility.

In written comments to regulators, the utility said the KEMA study “will do little, if anything, to move the optimal implementation of energy efficiency forward in Missouri. It may do the opposite.”

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com

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