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Japanese Disaster is Yet Another Reason
Why Ameren Must Pursue Efficiency First
Our sympathy goes out those who lost loved ones in last week's devastating earthquake and tsunami. As the Japanese reel from this disaster, they are now also under high alert for a nuclear reactor meltdown and radiation exposure.
While members of the U.S. Congress are discussing a possible moratorium on new nuclear reactors until safety issues are addressed, the Missouri General Assembly is considering legislation that would allow Ameren Missouri to charge ratepayers $40 million for a permit for a second nuclear reactor in mid-Missouri.
The proposed legislation would chip away at a 1976 ballot initiative supported 2-to-1 by Missouri voters. This law protects Missourians from investor-owned utilities charging ratepayers up-front for the construction of a power plant until it is producing electricity.
To understand the many other reasons why SB 321 and SB 406 are bad public policy, read Senator Joan Bray's guest column in the Joplin Globe last month.
In short, Ameren admits it cannot find investors to fund the nuclear plant because it is too risky and expensive.
Therefore, Ameren must pass SB 321 or SB 406 which shifts the financial risk of investment of a new nuclear plant from shareholders to ratepayers. But while shareholders dodge the risk, they still receive a financial windfall if/when the reactor comes online and Ameren then sells the excess electricity out of state for a premium.
History tells us only 50% of proposed nuclear reactors are completed and produce electricity in the U.S. These are not good odds for ratepayers who will have to pay for a new reactor whether or not it actually comes online.
The most frustrating thing about this proposition is that Ameren can easily meet Missouri's energy needs through energy efficiency instead of raising your electric rates to pay for a $6 billion nuclear reactor. In the St. Louis Post Dispatch on February 25, Steve Kidwell, Ameren Missouri Vice President of Regulatory Affairs, said:
"If we went after the potential that we've seen in our own study,
we wouldn't have to build another power plant for 20 years, and
we could retire Meramec, and we'd be OK. But we'd lose
$30 million a year. And we just can't do that. It's that simple."
So at the end of the day, Ameren's own numbers show that an aggressive energy efficiency plan will keep electric bills lower than other energy options. But, the company's sole concern is shareholder profits.
Kidwell's concern about loss revenue has been addressed through new rules developed by the Public Service Commission this year. Utilities are now reimbursed for costs associated with implementing efficiency programs and for revenue they lose when the efficiency programs cause customers to buy less power.
Ameren's goal is to charge you, the ratepayer, millions of dollars up front for an unnecessary, risky, and expensive power plant rather than investing in the cheapest energy resource available, energy efficiency.
Now is the time to get involved! Attend Conservation Lobby Day on Tuesday, March 29 and speak to state legislators about this issue and other critical environmental policies.
Missouri Coalition for the Environment