AmerenUE not hiding data

Friday, April 24, 2009

ith rare exception, we at AmerenUE have stayed silent when the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has published editorials nearly every week questioning our motives. But the editorial "Fuzzy math, Ameren-style" (April 19) and an accompanying editorial cartoon crossed the line. They called into question the integrity of a company that has served Missourians for more than a century, a company that offers St. Louisans the lowest electric rates found in any U.S. city.

Rather than focus on the core issues, the Post-Dispatch claims AmerenUE's hard-working analysts are deliberately distorting the facts about the rate impact of building a possible second nuclear unit at the Callaway Plant.

The Post-Dispatch claims that we have failed to provide our calculations publicly. This simply is false. We have given testimony on these estimates, provided them to our regulators and distributed them to the media at sessions where these issues were discussed.

We also shared these facts with the Post-Dispatch:

* UE is not earning anywhere near its allowed rate of return, so we are not recovering costs we have already incurred.

* Our rates are 38 percent below the national average, some of the lowest in the nation, and we've worked hard to keep them there. But we spent between 1987 and 2007 cutting rates several times, reducing them by more than 12 percent. Customers are paying rates that are below the level of 20 years ago.

* Meanwhile, costs for everything from poles to fuel for our power plants have jumped tremendously.

Behind this latest assault on the integrity of our employees and our entire company is the Post-Dispatch's unrelenting and unfair coverage of proposed legislation that the paper continues to characterize as anti-consumer.

The Missouri Clean and Renewable Energy Construction Act is exactly the opposite: This legislation would protect our customers from sharp rate increases and allow them to avoid paying billions of dollars in financing costs.

Also behind the Post-Dispatch's views is the short-sighted perception that we don't need new energy generation. The Post-Dispatch seems to believe that intermittent sources, like wind and solar energy, will suffice -- even though the U.S. Department of Energy has shown that Missouri has little potential for wind and solar energy development.

We are investing in renewable generation. We are aggressively pursuing promotion of energy efficiency. But even under the best scenario, with the maximum savings realized by efficiencies and the development of renewables, Missouri still will need a new generating plant in the future.

And we'll have to find a way pay for it. Our company is no longer strong enough to finance this plant in the traditional manner. With the proposed legislation that authorizes pay-as-you-go financing mechanisms, consumers will gradually cover financing -- not construction -- costs. This approach allows for small, gradual rate increases, vastly reducing the total amount of financing needed. This legislation is not seeking approval for a new plant but to establish a financing option if a new plant were needed and is proven to be the least cost.

We aren't hiding anything. We never have. We live by our values, integrity being our guiding principle.

Thomas R. Voss is president and chief executive officer of AmerenUE. He will become president and CEO of Ameren Corp. on May 1. This commentary was published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: