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Your Opinion: Electric regulation isn’t working in Missouri

Your Opinion: Electric regulation isn’t working in Missouri

April 12th, 2019 in Opinion

Sen. Doug Libla

Greenville

Dear Editor:

Missouri monopoly investor-owned electric utilities have touted the benefits of the Illinois form of electric regulation. The Illinois electric market is characterized by two features: (1) competition in the electric generation market and (2) incentives for utilities to invest in the distribution grid. Interestingly, these Missouri utilities were able to convince (employing over 40 special interest lobbyists) the General Assembly to enact a portion of the Illinois model (the distribution investment incentive in Missouri Senate Bill 564 of 2018) while ignoring the more important portion of the Illinois model (electric competition). Recognizing that electric generation competition is the fundamental part of the Illinois model that results in the customer rate reductions, it’s unlikely the benefits experienced in Illinois will ever be realized in Missouri without SJR25 passing, and later voted on by Missourians.

Clearly, regulation isn’t working in Missouri. Since 2010, Missouri’s average industrial electric rate has increased over 51 percent versus 6.2 percent nationally. State and federal government has repeatedly taken steps to replace regulation with competition. For example, instead of regulating airlines, trucking, trains, internet, electric, etc., we’ve allowed the competitive market to set prices for services with amazing success and innovation.

SB564 has effectively allowed Ameren to have “it’s cake and eat it too.” Passage of SB564 provided Ameren an increased incentive to invest in Missouri, which will cause customer rates to increase, without implementing the portion of the model (electric competition) which actually is what spurs rate reductions. As a result, rates in Missouri are above the national average and destined to continue rising.

Worse still, Ameren claimed SB564 would be used to modernize our electric grid. In its recent capital investment plan, Ameren revealed that these incentives are being used for all investment and not simply its investment in grid modernization. Specifically, Ameren is spending $1 billion in wind generation. The benefits of SB564 claimed (a modernized distribution grid) won’t be realized in Missouri to the extent touted by Ameren. SJR25 (when amended) will not apply to municipal or cooperative electric companies.

Since my coming into the Missouri Senate in 2013, Ameren, KCPL and Empire have spent millions of dollars to effectively reduced oversight of the Missouri Public Service Commission (the only watchdog of utility monopoly tyranny).

I’ve indicated for many years and still believe today, SB564 was “about the greed and not about the grid.” The fox is managing the hen house!