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Empire District wants rate increase

JOPLIN – Empire District Electric Company plans to advance its request to increase electricity rates. The company reported second-quarter earnings of $10.7 million, but will look to increase its rates to make approximately $30.7 million more per year, an additional $7.6 million per quarter.

On July 6, 2012, the Company filed a rate request with the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) seeking an annual increase in electric customer revenues of approximately $30.7 million, or 7.56 percent.

Empire District President and CEO Brad Beecher says the aftermath of an historic EF-5 tornado that struck Joplin in 2011 serves as one of the main reasons the company needs more money from its customers.

“We are seeking recovery of operation and maintenance expenses and capital costs associated with the May 22 tornado as well as increased costs of service post tornado due to the decrease in customers. A total of $6.2 million of this case is associated with the tornado,” Beecher said.

The second major expense in the rate increase request involves clean energy mandates.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission encouraged utility providers to develop new transmission lines that transmit power from renewable energy sources (solar and wind power plants). A cost share rule distributes cost of building new transmission lines among utility providers.

“Though none of the new lines are located within our geographic footprint, we are allocated a share of their costs,” Beecher said.

Empire District also hopes to recover costs of tree trimming associated with requirements from the Missouri Public Service Commission, retiring two units at a coal-fired power plant in Riverton, Kan., software upgrades, the cost of coal and natural gas, and electricity purchased from non-company owned generation plants.

On July 23, the power company asked the MPSC to hold an evidentiary hearing so that Empire District may present its case.

If the PSC approves the rate increase without delay, higher rates would show up on electric bills on Dec. 1.