COLUMBIA – The Missouri NAACP is calling for industrial electric customers to pay the same rates as residential customers.
The move comes as a response to testimony by the lobbying group Missouri Industrial Energy Consumers that asks the Missouri Public Service Commission to raise residential rates and lower rates for industrial customers. The commission is deciding on AmerenUE's rate increase request of roughly $402 million, according to a news release from the commission.
While AmerenUE requested the rate increase, the commission is tasked with approving it and dividing it among customer types.
Harold Crumpton, a National Association for the Advancement of Colored People board member and a former public service commissioner, introduced a resolution at the NAACP's state conference to call attention to the "economic inequities" of the current electric rates "in pursuit of gaining long overdue electric rate relief for residential consumers." Members present passed the resolution unanimously.
At current rates, AmerenUE's residential customers pay roughly 7.7 cents and industrial, large transmission customers pay roughly 3.3 cents per kilowatt hour, according to Crumpton. Noranda Aluminum Company in New Madrid is AmerenUE's only large transmission customer.
The NAACP believes the disparity in rates places an unfair burden on residential customers.
"Residential customers pay nearly double the rate for power than the wealthiest and largest industrial power customers," Crumpton said.
However, the testimony filed by the lobbying group claims that industrial rates should be lower because AmerenUE avoids expenses and "the expenses are borne by the customer who must invest in his own transformers and other equipment, or pay separately for some services."
The group suggests that residential rates should increase by 13.3 percent and Noranda's rates decrease by 15.5 percent. Moreover, the testimony calls for every rate class to decrease with the exception of residential customers.
Crumpton doesn't deny that in some cases a lower rate is justified but said he is mainly concerned by the large differences in what customers are paying. Crumpton said that the commission should look at overall energy usage to determine rates instead of looking at peak usage like the industrial group's testimony does.
A decision on AmerenUE's full rate proposal is expected by early summer.