Hearings set in Noranda complaint cases about Ameren

Missouri’s Public Service Commission has set the hearing schedules in two complaint cases filed Feb. 12 by Noranda Aluminum Inc. and a number of individual customers against Ameren Missouri, the state’s largest electricity provider.

Noranda operates an aluminum smelter in New Madrid County that is Ameren’s single largest electricity customer.

In one complaint, Noranda and 37 individual customers accuse Ameren Missouri of earning more money than is allowed by the return on equity authorized in the utility’s most recent electric rate case, set in December 2012 and that went into effect in January 2013.

The complaint asked the PSC to review the rates granted in that case, then revise those rates to “just and reasonable levels,” which the complaint said should be a reduction in those approved rates.

The hearings are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. June 23 in the Governor Office Building Room 310 and run through June 27.

This week’s announcement said the commission “anticipates making a decision in this complaint case on Aug. 20.”

In the separate complaint, Noranda and 37 other individual customers argue that the rate Noranda pays to Ameren — under the schedule approved in December 2012 — now is unreasonable.

The complaint cited low aluminum prices and other business conditions.

Without a rate reduction, Noranda argued, its aluminum smelter would not remain financially viable, and might have to be closed — which would affect 900 employees and their families.

The complaint asks the PSC to reduce Noranda’s rate to $30 per megawatt hour, and to increase the rate paid by Ameren’s other customers — so that the changes are revenue-neutral for Ameren Missouri.

Opponents call the Noranda request a “rate-shift,” noting Ameren’s other customers already pay a higher per-kilowatt-hour rate than Noranda pays.

Noranda counters that it already pays Ameren more than $160 million a year for the electricity it buys — and the other customers’ rate increase would be much higher if Noranda closed the smelter and bought no electricity from Ameren.

The PSC’s hearings in the rate-change complaint case are scheduled to begin at 8:30 a.m. June 4 and run through June 6 in the Governor Office Building, Room 310.

The commission expects to decide the case July 30.

Ameren has asked the commission to reject both complaints, and the company’s arguments will be included as part of the hearings.


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