Ameren Rate Case Calls to Action

Missouri Civic, Legal, Environmental, and Justice Organizations Call for an Equitable Outcome in Ameren Rate Case

A coalition of Missouri community organizations stand in opposition to Ameren Missouri’s proposal to increase bills for working families in File No. ER-2021-0240 before the Missouri Public Service Commission. We urge the Commission to deny Ameren’s requested rate increase and take steps to ensure that families, seniors, medically vulnerable individuals, and regular folks just struggling to survive have adequate protections during an unprecedented pandemic. With the reemergence of the COVID-19 virus and the more contagious Delta variant in Missouri, we should expect that customers will face new challenges in energy affordability, unemployment, and the ability to afford life essentials. Ameren’s requested rate increase will place a further burden on customers at an inopportune moment, creating a crisis in utility debt and increasing the risk of shutoffs for thousands of households.

The following calls to action were developed collaboratively among our organizations to meet the crisis in energy affordability and to offer protection for customers at this crucial time. We encourage Ameren Missouri to work with us to address these concerns.

  1. No bill increases for families: Ameren must put people first. In the midst of a pandemic and the resulting economic crisis it has caused, Ameren’s residential customers–families, seniors, medically vulnerable individuals, and regular folks just trying to survive–cannot afford to pay higher utility bills.
  2. No increase to the fixed monthly charge: Thousands of working families are already facing high energy burdens. Low-income households generally use less energy and higher fixed charges harm customers for conserving energy.
  3. Include consumer protections alongside new rate designs: Ameren should work with communities to proactively protect Missourians. Innovations like time-of-use rates, which charge customers more for energy used during dangerously hot summer temperatures, should include robust consumer protections and be tested with non-low-income households first, until the impacts are better understood.
  4. No shut-offs for non-payment: Ameren must immediately implement a shut-off moratorium for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic. Further, as utility service is essential to public health, Ameren should propose and implement a plan to achieve permanent elimination of shut-offs due to non-payment of bills, including but not limited to higher bill assistance budgets to help families, greater debt forgiveness, realistic payment plans, the elimination of penalties and fees, better assistance programs, and tools like efficiency and renewables that reduce bills in the long term.
  5. Invest corporate profits in debt forgiveness: Ameren shareholders should do their part by pitching in to forgive families’ utility debts after the COVID-19 crisis, rather than expecting struggling households to shoulder this burden alone. Excess profits that Ameren earned from its residential customers during the COVID-19 crisis should be returned to directly benefit struggling households with low or fixed incomes via bill credits, debt forgiveness, and energy efficiency offerings. Debt forgiveness allows families to remove debt built up prior to program participation and meet current bill payment obligations. Families, seniors, and others who were unable to afford their bills prior to payment program participation are unlikely to be able to afford even a discounted bill if they also have responsibility for paying off large, accumulated past debt.
  6. Realistic and expanded payment and billing plans: Ameren should implement strategies to ensure families can keep the lights on, maintain a safe temperature, and stay in their homes. Payment plans should reflect the financial realities of the households Ameren serves. Payment plans should be available all year and include, but not be limited to, 18-month or longer payment plans, the ability for families to renegotiate plans, percent of income payments, and more. Families have expressed a preference for predictable monthly energy bills that do not fluctuate over the course of the year. Percent of income payment plans provide more equitable benefits based on energy burden, result in fixed monthly payments, serve lower-income households, and have greater impacts on reducing energy burden, providing a greater opportunity for bill management.
  7. No penalties/fees: Ameren should eliminate penalties and fees that punish households–families, seniors, medically vulnerable individuals and regular folks just trying to survive–for not having the money to pay their utility bills. This should include, but is not limited to the following, no more late payment fees, shut-off fees, or reconnection of services fees.
  8. Greatly increase funding for bill assistance and do more to help working families and those on fixed incomes achieve lower bills in the long term: Building on its success to date, Ameren should expand eligibility and greatly increase the budgets for the Keeping Current and Keeping Cool programs in order to allow more families to receive assistance and for a longer period. Ameren should continue the collaborative process to review bill assistance program recommendations and make consensus changes. Ameren should collaborate with partners to incentivize families to participate in other assistance programs, but avoid requirements that can pose barriers to participation. Further, Ameren needs to establish strong linkages between payment assistance programs, energy efficiency/weatherization, and income-eligible renewable energy programs in order to help struggling families achieve lower bills in the long term.
  9. Greater data transparency: Ameren should track and publicly report out data on energy burden and residential shut-offs for non-payment, both demographically and geographically. This will enable better policy and program design so that families receive equitable benefits in proportion to their need for assistance. 

This is a coalition formed by allies working to ensure that the health and well-being of Missourians are put first, that essential needs are met during this time of crisis, and that our state’s big utilities and policymakers work with the public to shape a just energy future for all. This is a space for collaboration in order to co-create policies and pool resources behind inter-sectional energy justice and is open to all.

There are many ways to get involved. We hope you will join us in holding Ameren accountable. Thank you for all you do.

Would you like to get involved in helping shape energy policies that prioritize people’s health over big companies’ profits? Click here and fill out this short survey and an ally will reach out to share information and an invitation to connect with Missourians working for energy justice in Missouri!