Rates are reasonable, need to stay that way

By Gus Bode

Ameren has done it again. It’s raised its rates.

The increase does not come as a surprise, but the Daily Egyptian thinks that if rate increases become a trend, it should be the government’s responsibility to exert a little control over the company.

Ameren needed to raise their rates to keep up with the rising costs of production and replacement of equipment, which is necessary for a business to survive. We hope customers will not have too much trouble stomaching the hike, which should add up to less than $10 a month for a regular household.

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We are thankful the intense rate increases that were imposed after the rates freeze have slowed.

The Daily Egyptian hopes it will stay that way. We hope, as Congress debates a $700 billion bailout for Wall Street and citizens face historic uncertainties in the economy, AmerenCIPS will be reasonable to southern Illinois customers. Your clientele consists largely of students with few prospects for jobs and a large portion of the population living below the poverty line.

The Daily Egyptian thinks, if things get much worse, the state may need to consider stepping in and capping the percent of profit utility companies – companies that sell services people must have to go on living – can earn.

We do not want a freeze. The last rate freeze resulted in a roller coaster of rates that left many people with electric bills five times higher than the previous month’s and no lights to see the check where they signed away the last penny they had.

Freezes are not the answer. A cap would keep prices affordable, but it would prevent extreme rate changes for the company to get back on par with the industry if the government limit were lifted.

We’d also like to encourage the Illinois Commerce Commission – the state board that approves utility rate increases and programs – to consider a program like Missouri’s Pure Power Program. The state needs to look for more affordable ways to harness energy in the future.

The Pure Power Program has given Missouri Ameren customers the option of giving an extra $15 a month to help Ameren support the development of clean, renewable energy in the Midwest for almost a year now. Only 4,000 people have signed up so far, but every penny counts toward a smaller dependence on fossil fuels.

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Ameren’s site says an option such as this is supposed to be coming to Illinois soon, and we hope the state will support this effort to find better ways to produce energy than burning coal. Customers may be reluctant to sign up for it now in the uncertain economic climate, but businesses and residents should have the option just the same.

Power outages that last only a few hours can give people a much-needed break from technology and work, but living without electricity is simply not an option. Ameren and the state government need to think more carefully about the way Illinois produces its power and how much customers must pay for it.

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