Missourians passed an initiative in 1976 to ban raising electric rates while building a new power plant— known as Construction Work in Progress. Now a 25-page bill to repeal this ban is before the legislature. It is full of special interest regulations to shift all the risk of building Callaway II nuclear plant from Ameren to ratepayers. It gives Ameren a profit incentive to extend the construction time and to allow cost overruns.
If the project fails or is never built — a likelihood, since less expensive ways to meet our energy needs can come quicker — then customers will get nothing for their enforced risk capital.
Ameren is unwilling to make their shareholders assume this risk, and no private bank will lend them construction funds. If Callaway II is too risky for shareholders and banks, it's too risky for ratepayers. Supporters say it will create jobs years from now when construction actually begins, but in the near term, rate hikes could make us lose jobs in Missouri. High-energy businesses that are having difficulty in the recession now could fail if their rates go up. Other businesses might choose to go where no CWIP laws force higher rates years before any benefit is reaped, if ever.
Ameren has an excess capacity for power now and may never need more power plants. The quickest, cheapest way to meet our long-term energy needs is to retrofit homes, businesses and government buildings for greater energy efficiency, creating good-paying jobs right now to do the retrofitting.