Bills go up for Missouri Liberty customers

Utility Rate Increase
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JOPLIN, Mo. – Liberty customers in Missouri will see an increase in their electric bills soon.

On May 17, the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved the updated base rates for Empire District Electric Company (doing business as Liberty).

(On the Kansas side… Empire customers see a rate decrease)

New Base Rates

There are two rate changes that will go into effect on June 1, 2022.

The first increase is the base rate the MPSC approved. A Liberty Missouri residential electric customer using about 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per month will see an increase of $9.93 per month, or a 7.53% increase.

The second increase is in the fuel adjustment clause (FAC).

  • This increase is the result of a required semi-annual filing, which represents the charge for the difference between the amount of fuel and purchased power costs established in base rates and the amount of actual fuel and purchased power costs incurred by Liberty. If costs are less, customers see a credit on the Fuel Charge line, and if costs are more, customers see a charge. The charge includes no mark-up profit for the Company.” – Liberty

For this change, a residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy a month will see a FAC increase of about $5.85 per month.

Liberty states in their release that starting June 1, fuel cost savings related to its wind farms will be factored into the updated rate structure and future FAC updates.

Other Approved Items, Time of Use Rates

In addition, the MPSC approved Liberty to implement time-of-use rates beginning October 15, 2022.

According to Liberty, “These rates plans are designed to show customers the correlation between when they use energy – during costlier peak-use times or during less expensive off-peak times – and the respective potential impact on their electric bill.”

Liberty states once these rates go into effect in October, “customers will pay a lower rate for energy used daily during the off-peak hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.”

“Additional optional time-of-use rate structures will be available to residential and small commercial customers. These rate structures are designed to give customers more control over their monthly electric bill.” – Liberty

The MPSC also approved Liberty to expand its financial assistance and home weatherization programs.

Liberty notes that things can change. You can read the full Liberty release here.

Liberty’s Reason for Increase

Liberty’s last rate update was in 2020. The company states that since then, it’s invested more than $860 million in “critical infrastructure for improved reliability and grid security, technology to enhance customer service, and cost-effective renewable energy generation.”

“Liberty’s investments included in this approved rate update allow us to continue to deliver the safe, reliable energy we know our customers count on for their daily lives. These investments also enable Liberty to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency to help keep energy cost effective over the long-term,” said Tim Wilson, Liberty Vice President, Electric Operations. “Upgrades to our infrastructure make it more secure and more resilient during extreme weather, which means fewer and shorter outages. Clean, renewable energy helps us to protect our environment while reducing energy generation costs; savings that we pass on to customers. And, updated technology allows us to better serve our customers through convenient billing and payment platforms and to offer options, such as new rate plans and access to near-real-time energy usage information, that encourage energy savings and help customers lower their bill. With this approval, we can also do more to help customers who may be struggling with their bills through expanded assistance programs.”

The utility company laid out the following in its media release:

Key investments and improvements included in the rate update

  • Providing customers safe, dependable energy through Liberty’s infrastructure upgrades. These investments bolster reliability and strengthen Liberty’s system and the grid against the impacts of extreme weather events and security threats. Examples include:
    • Minimizing the impact of outages for customers by expanding substations and adding automated switching to help speed power restoration and limit the number of customers who experience an outage
    • Improving safety and reliability by replacing more than 1,500 deteriorating poles
    • Reducing outages caused by wildlife, one of the leading causes of outages, by installing approximately 3,000 wildlife guards. These guards protect our system and protect the curious birds and animals that try to come in contact with our equipment.
    • Providing customers with options to help manage and lower their monthly bill through the installation of smart meters. The automated meter technology helps lower operational costs and supports new, convenient customer service platforms along with time-of-use rate plans that put customers in control of the most cost-effective time to use energy.
  • Transitioning to clean, renewable energy that is expected to save customers money over the long term compared to other energy generation. This included:
    • The construction of Liberty’s 600-megawatt wind energy project consisting of 277 wind turbines on three wind farms in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas
    • The construction of Liberty’s first regulated Community Solar project near Joplin, Missouri, consisting of approximately 5,700 solar panels placed on an Environmental Protection Agency superfund site, making use of land not suitable for other types of development
  • Expanding financial assistance to customers by continuing Liberty’s low-income pilot program and increasing the available discount to two times the customer charge during the peak heating months of December through February and peak cooling months of June through August. Liberty will also establish a critical needs program and more than double the funding for the low-income weatherization program, from $250,000 to $550,000 annually. This program, funded by Liberty and supported by area assistance agencies, helps to improve energy efficiency at qualifying customer homes to help reduce energy bills.