Ameren Missouri Wind Farm Applications

Seeking to take advantage of the expiring Production Tax Credits, Ameren applied on May 21, 2019 for a Certificate of Convenience and Necessity to build a 400 MW wind farm in northeastern Missouri, and on October 22, 2019 for a 157 MW wind farm. The first application also sought Commission approval of a Renewable Energy Standard Cost Recovery Mechanism (“RESRAM”), which will allow the Company to recover the costs of the project through a surcharge mechanism without filing a general rate case. The parties filed a stipulation and agreement on October 12 that resolved all the issues in the case except for an issue relating to statutory construction of Senate Bill 564. The specific issue raised is whether the plant-in-service accounting mechanism authorized by Senate Bill 564 can be used concurrently with a RESRAM. The Office of the Public Counsel Public argued that it cannot. The Commission on December 12, 2018 approved that agreement. But it also ruled against the OPC on the statutory construction issue, and on January 28, 2019, the OPC filed an appeal, which is just getting started.

On February 20, 2019, the parties to the second case, the 157 MW wind farm application, filed an agreement that would resolve all issues in the case and allow Ameren to move forward with that wind farm as well. It is expected that the Commission will approve that agreement, most likely in March 2019.

Grain Belt Express Clean Line Application

The 2016 Grain Belt Express application to construct a merchant electric transmission line across Missouri is being reconsidered by the Commission after the Supreme Court ruled that the Commission’s interpretation of its legal authority was incorrect. Much of the evidence the Commission is considering is from the first application with some selective updates. Because the Commission’s initial decision was based on a mistaken application of the law, and the Commission clearly indicated that it would have approved the application but for that reading of the law, it seems likely that the Commission will approve the application this time around. The case has been fully heard and briefed (although there is a request by the landowners to offer additional evidence and argument) and a decision is expected relatively soon.

Rate Case Process Workshop

On November 6, 2018, the Staff of the Commission asked the Commission to open a workshop titled: “In the Matter of a Workshop Docket to Explore the Ratemaking Process.” On November 27, the Staff filed a draft rule for discussion that would significantly shorten the time taken to process a rate increase request. A workshop was held shortly after that filing on November 29, where a robust discussion about the proposed rule and the rate case process in general was held. Consumer representatives all made the point that simply shortening the time for processing a rate case was the wrong approach, and that a better approach would be to see if there are ways to make the process more efficient, which might then lead to a possibility of shortening the time in some cases. Consumer representatives and utilities filed comments in the workshop docket in January 2019, and the expectation is that there will be additional workshops later this year.

Electric Vehicle Workshop

On February 14, the Commission opened a workshop by issuing an order that stated: “the Commission intends that the workshop process be expedited so that all interested stakeholders can work toward finding the best solutions for developing Missouri’s EV charging network as quickly as practicable.” A workshop was held on March 21, at which utilities, the Commission Staff, and interested stakeholders discussed different frameworks for building out Missouri’s electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Under Commission practices, a workshop such as this will not result in a Commission order, but will simply serve to gather information. The Commission will use that information in other cases or rulemakings to establish electric vehicle charging policies.

The legislature, at the time of writing, is considering one piece of major utility legislation, although any legislation could be amended at any time to increase its scope or scale. The one piece that this Update will discuss expands and changes the Infrastructure System Replacement Surcharge (ISRS) for water utilities. Substantially similar bills are pending in the House (House Bill 633) and in the Senate (Senate Bill 377), sponsored by Representative Bondon and Senator Riddle, respectively. The legislation would change the acronym ISRS to IRRA, for Infrastructure Resilience Rate Adjustment, and would expand its use in a number of ways. First, it would geographically expand its availability to the entire state; its use is currently limited to St. Louis County. Second, it would expand its availability to all water and sewer utilities. Third, it would increase the amount of money a utility could collect under the surcharge mechanism to fifteen percent of the utility's base revenue requirement from the current ten percent limit.

The Senate Bill was heard in the Commerce, Consumer Protection, Energy and the Environment Committee on March 13, and the House Bill was heard in the House Utilities Committee on February 19.