Thursday, December 01, 2022

Public Service Commission to Spire: Go ahead and raise your rates

(From Missouri Public Service Commission)

The Missouri Public Service Commission has approved an agreement reached by parties in a natural gas rate case filed by Spire Missouri, Inc. (Spire Missouri) which authorizes Spire Missouri to increase annual natural gas revenues by approximately $78 million above what was approved in Spire Missouri’s last rate case. 

Spire Missouri has asked that new rates take effect on December 26, 2022, but no later than January 1, 2023. When Spire Missouri filed its natural gas rate request on April 1, 2022, it sought a net increase in its annual natural gas revenues of approximately $151.9 million.

The agreement approved by the Public Service Commission was submitted by Spire Missouri, the Office of the Public Counsel, the Public Service Commission Staff, Consumers Council of Missouri, Midwest Energy Consumers Group, Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers, Symmetry Energy Solutions, LLC, Constellation NewEnergy-Gas Division, LLC, Clearwater Enterprises, L.L.C. and WoodRiver Energy, LLC. No party objected to the agreement.

“After reviewing the unopposed Agreement, the Commission determines that its terms are a reasonable resolution of the issues therein and will result in just and reasonable rates,” said the Commission. “Therefore, the Commission will approve the Agreement.”

According to the PSC Staff, the current and new customer charge as well as the current and new winter usage charge (November through April) on a per Ccf basis (per 1,000 cubic feet of natural gas) appears below.

For Spire East residential customers, the monthly customer charge will drop from $22 a month to $20 a month. The current winter usage charge (November through April) is approximately 27.6 cents per Ccf. Under the agreement, it will go to approximately 36.5 cents per Ccf.

For Spire West residential customers, the monthly customer charge will stay the same at $20 a month. The current winter usage charge (November through April) is approximately 27 cents per Ccf. Under the agreement, it will go to approximately 37.4 cents per Ccf.

This rate case generally reflected “non-gas” costs. “Non-gas” costs are operating and maintenance expenses in providing natural gas to customers in a safe and useful form. It also includes a return on investment in plant (such as meters, mains and service lines that deliver natural gas to your home or business). The actual cost of the natural gas is NOT a part of this rate case. The wholesale cost of natural gas is unregulated. The Public Service Commission reviews the natural gas purchasing practices of Spire Missouri to ensure prudent decisions are made in securing natural gas supplies for its customers.

In an agreement reached in the last Spire Missouri rate case, the natural gas company changed the name of its Low-Income Energy Affordability Program to the Payment Partner Program. That agreement provided for automatic customer referrals to energy efficiency programs and expansion of program eligibility from 185% of the federal poverty level to 200%.

In the agreement approved by the Commission in this rate case, Spire Missouri will increase shareholder contributions to the Payment Partner Program by $1 million in addition to existing contributions, bringing the total funding of the program to $3.3 million. In addition, the Payment Partner Program eligibility will be expanded to 300% of the federal poverty level through April 30, 2023.

According to the agreement, beginning on May 1, 2023, absent an alternative agreement by the Spire Limited Income Collaborative, the eligibility for the program will change to 80% of the State of Missouri median income, which, the agreement states, is consistent with the state’s guidelines for Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) eligibility. The agreement states the Spire Limited Income Collaborative may recommend extension of the Payment Partner Program at 300% of the federal poverty level.

In the last rate case agreement, Spire Missouri agreed to conduct a three year pilot program to serve customers with critical needs based on the framework originally designed by Baltimore Gas and Electric known as the Maryland Critical Needs Programs. In this rate case agreement, Spire Missouri will provide, independent of the contributions to the Payment Partner Program, $500,000 to the creation of the Critical Needs Program. Parties are to continue working together through the Critical Needs Partnership to develop the details of this program.

Spire Missouri East provides natural gas service to approximately 658,260 customers in the City of St. Louis as well as the Missouri counties of St. Louis, St. Charles, Butler, Iron, Franklin, Jefferson, Madison, Crawford, St. Francois and Ste. Genevieve. Spire Missouri West provides natural gas service to approximately 527,200 customers in Andrew, Barry, Barton, Bates, Buchanan, Carroll, Cass, Cedar, Christian, Clay, Clinton, Dade, DeKalb, Greene, Henry, Howard, Jackson, Jasper, Johnson, Lafayette, Lawrence, McDonald, Moniteau, Pettis, Platte, Ray, Saline, Stone and Vernon counties.

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