‘A painful summer’: How Ameren’s price increase will affect you

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 7:48 PM CDT
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PEORIA (25 News) - Turning down the air conditioning is often a necessity during the warm months. But the amount Peoria residents pay to keep cool is about to change.

Starting June 1, Ameren customers using 1,000 kWh will pay $50 a month, or $600 more a year, for their utilities on the supply side. That charge would amount to $.115 per kWh. But the reason as to why doesn’t rest on Ameren’s shoulders. The war in Ukraine, higher natural gas prices, and inflation are all contributing factors. That includes a supply shortage due to renewable energy sources not yet fully able to replace retired fossil fuel-fired power plants. Because customers could pay close to three times more on their bill from Ameren, the city is working to find another option to protect customers from bearing the brunt of the change.

“The city is working diligently in the marketplace to see if there are opportunities that we can make that rate increase less impactful,” says Peoria Third District councilman Tim Riggenbach. “We’re not the supplier, we don’t set the price. So we’re out there shopping on your behalf.”

Ameren says they’re a delivery-only utility, which means they cover the cost of infrastructure, technology, and employees. The company profits from energy delivery services at rates set each year. They are not a supplier, or the ones who generate the power. 18 months ago, the City of Peoria signed a contract with ‘Homefield Energy’, who is a supplier, and by comparison charges $.043 per kWh. But when that deal ends May 31, the city might have to rely on Ameren for a short period of time as both a supplier and distributor, which means higher costs. That’s where the city’s ‘broker’ comes in, who works to find a new supplier for the city to use that will be the most cost-efficient. Until a new deal is struck, the city will have to rely on Ameren for the short-term, which could mean higher prices.

“No question, this is the highest price spike I’ve ever seen in electricity,” says Jim Chilsen with the Citizens Utility Board, an organization that works to advocate for utility customer rights. But he says there are things you can still do to soften the blow.

“If you are having a hard time affording your electric bills this summer,” he adds, “it is so important that you call your utility. Find out what energy assistance is available. Ask your utility if you can enter into a payment plan that will give you a longer period to pay off your debt.”

The increase in cost does not mean Ameren will make more money. The company notes since it doesn’t profit from energy supply, costs are passed to customers directly without a markup.

If you’re facing financial difficulties, Ameren offers bill assistance programs for those facing financial difficulties, including lowering down payments for extended payment agreements through July 31. You can find that information here. The Citizens Utility Board also provides resources that can help educate you on your rights as a utility customer, which you can find here.

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