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Ameren filed to increase electricity rates on Friday, launching what figures to be a protracted tug-of-war process with industry and consumer groups resisting the move.

The St. Louis-based utility has proposed an increase in revenue of $206 million, which company officials say would equate to a 7.8 percent average increase in rates for consumers.

“This reflects $1.4 billion in investments we’ve made since our last rate review two years ago,” said Warren Wood, Ameren Missouri’s vice president of external affairs and communication. Wood said those investments have encompassed grid maintenance, clean energy development projects, and enhancing grid security.

According to Wood, Ameren has also had to pay $34 million for upgrades to regional energy transmission systems and is coping with the loss of its largest energy consumer, Noranda Aluminum. Noranda, which closed its New Madrid, Mo., facility amid bankruptcy in March, continuously used approximately the same amount of energy as all of Springfield, the state’s third-largest city.

The state Office of Public Counsel issued a statement saying it will carefully review Ameren’s proposal. The statement indicated that some of Ameren’s numbers are already being challenged.

“While Ameren characterizes the overall increase to be approximately 7.8 percent, the proposed increase for residential customers is actually closer to 8.29 percent since Ameren proposes to apply more of the increase to residential customers than other customer classes,” the OPC release stated.

The OPC response also indicated that the office will look closely at a proposed “system access charge” which it alleges would effectively raise the fixed customer service fee from $8.00 per month to $12.89 — a 61 percent increase.

Wood says this is Ameren’s seventh request for a rate review in the last decade and represents the smallest total the utility has sought over that interval. The review process will include an audit of Ameren’s finances before a final determination is due at the end of May 2017.

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