ARC's 1st Law: As a "progressive" online discussion grows longer, the probability of a nefarious reference to Karl Rove approaches one

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


At least, that's the only real solution to the power outages here in Missouri, right?

I mean, the regulated monopoly system that's currently in place only benefits the regulated monopoly and those that oversee it - ie, the politicians that can get on their high-horse and demand an action. It's truly the power of "political pull" that is in full effect with regard to the utilities and Missouri's Public Service Commission. (my [comments] throughout):

Missouri: Ameren on the hot seat
By Jeffrey Tomich
Wednesday, Dec. 06 2006

Missouri's top utility regulator put AmerenUE on notice Tuesday: Find a way to
stop the mass power outages.

Missouri Public Service Commission Chairman Jeff Davis gave the utility 30 days
to come up with a plan.

"The response that these things just happen — that's well and good — but that
line only works once a decade," Davis said in an interview while en route to
St. Louis to get a firsthand look at last week's storm damage.
[Pure political posturing on his part.]

The storm marked the fourth time in Davis' 2 1/2-year tenure as head of the PSC that hundreds of thousands of customers were left in the dark after a major
storm. About 96,000 Ameren customers in Missouri and Illinois still were
without power as of 10:32 a.m. today.

While nothing can be done to completely storm-proof the local power grid, Davis
said he's tired of answering questions from upset customers.

"We've got to get some answers to people, and we've got to get them now," Davis
said. "I don't want to be back here six months from now with 500,000 customers
out of power."
[Davis is the protector of the consumer!!]

The heightened tension between Missouri's largest electric utility and the
five-member body that regulates it comes as the commission is considering a
request to increase electric rates by $361 million a year. Increases for
homeowners would be capped at 10 percent. Commercial and industrial customers would pay more.
[Oh, that's just lovely... glad that my electricity rates are decided by 5 people, instead of the power of millions of individual choices (in the form of a free market sytem). I think the old saying could be modified to be "a million heads are better than five."]

AmerenUE said last week's storm that left a thick coat of ice on trees, poles
and power lines, prompting many to snap, is unprecedented in its 100-year
history. [Except for the three other outages in the past 2 1/2 years] The utility made the same argument when back-to-back thunderstorms left almost a million people without electric service in the bistate area in July — some for as long as nine days.

The utility, too, is exasperated.

"We understand the commission's frustration," Ameren spokeswoman Susan Gallagher said Tuesday. "We share that frustration. Everyone is looking for an
easy answer. Everyone wants to make this better, but our priority is getting
everyone back on."
[That says it all! Do they understand the consumer's frustration? No, their only concern is the commission that regulates them.]

Davis and three other commissioners said they couldn't comment on the pending
rate case, which comes down to the utility's costs and determining how big of a
profit AmerenUE is allowed to earn.
[oh, lovely... what a great, New Deal-era system we're still living under.]

But customer service also could be considered by the commission.

"In general, performance is a factor that can be taken into account in setting
a return," Commissioner Steve Gaw said
[What paragraph is this? It took them this long to mention the customer and customer service!!!!]


Warren Wood, head of utility operations for the PSC staff, inspected the storm
damage Monday in north St. Louis and was returning with Davis on Tuesday. What
he saw reinforced the need for the commission to adopt a series of
recommendations made last month as part of a 153-page report on the summer power outages, he said.
[A 153 page report was developed in November... in response to a power outage this summer?! That's called being responsive if you're a bureaucrate.]


Davis said addressing the tree-trimming backlog and other actions clearly don't
go far enough.

"People want solutions and people are looking to me as chairman of the
commission to get them solutions," he said. "Offer us some solutions or it's
going to be us offering the solutions."
[ummm, Mr. Davis... how about offering me the solution of choice????]
And this gets to the heart of the matter. When utility deregulation was a possibility, many of its critics laughed, asking who in the heck would care about one power company over the other.. I mean, how can electricity be differentiated?

Well, when your service is down and the utility is a monopoly, they have little incentive to upgrade their systems by burying power lines instead of relying on overhead lines from the early 20th century. And it's unlikely that they will respond to consumer demands for greener power by investing in R&D... what's the point when the money keeps rolling in without a single threat from a competitor?

They also have little incentive to resolve the problem of an outage, other than the potential political backlash (see above example) or the short-term loss of revenue. It's not like any AmerenUE customer can even threaten to go to a competitor.

Your Co-Conspirator,
ARC: St Wendeler

Comments (7)
Brian said...

My favorite moment on TV of this whole affair was when the media representative of Ameren was on NBC talking about the plan to restore power.

All well in good. But the guy was dressed in a tacky members only jacket . At first I thought they had just grabbed a man on the street.

Sure, suit and tie may not make sense, but an Ameren hardhat would go along way to reassuring the public.

But he doesn't have to reassure the public. Just the public utility commission.

St Wendeler said...

Hey, Members Only jackets are coming back, my good friend.

as well as overly large sunglasses and porn-star 'taches.

this guy was just fashion-forward, that's all.

Anonymous said...

Look, the Ameren dude could have come out in a friggin' flannel shirt like the Brawney man with spiked shoes to climb the poles and it wouldn't do squat for my confidence in this company. He's wearing the damn Members Only jacket to convey the false impression that he makes like $23,000 per year. These Ameren execs are profit hoarding fat cats. They're getting more and more blood on their paws too. Google them. The execs are paid an astonishing salary; the company makes an astonishing profit. Meanwhile, poor people are killing themselves trying to warm up over a wok full of coal.

Brian said...

Soo.. anonymous... your solution would be to what? Make Ameren give us power for free? That would improve the outage situation wouldn't it?

Or are you going to force the Ameren engineers to be climbing the pole's at gunpoint?

You make the St.s point. Without competition, Ameren doesn't have to compete.

Anonymous said...

No. I'm not suggesting Ameren give us power for free. I certainly pay my share. I've had power bills as high as $800 per month in the Winter, and no, my home is not huge and I don't set the thermostat above 70. So, would I like to pay 50% more? No, particularly since I have no confidence that my power will not go out, causing me to toss out the contents of the refrigerator and freezer. Anyone who thinks Ameren's service would improve after a rate hike is a fool. A rate hike means more pay for executives and shareholders. The rate payer is in for a fleecing.

St Wendeler said...

Yep, when a company no longer has to worry about customers, it's the customers who suffer.

biggest examples of that are regulated utilities and government.

Instead of finding out whether customers would be willing to pay a higher rate for their electricity, all Ameren has to do is lobby the Public Service Commission and make it happen.

I think I've seen this movie before...

Anonymous said...

This guy wants a free market system for electricity? Be careful what you wish for. What happened to natural gas prices once it was opened up? They skyrocketed. Don't tell me the costs went up that much and supply was down...I don't buy it for a second.
And the free market system is just now hitting in Illinois for electricity. And whether we have a choice or not, power bought on the open market at these silly "auctions" yields a better price for the generation companies, NOT for the consumer.
Everywhere the "free market" and deregulation of electric and gas markets has been enacted in EVERY SINGLE CASE PRICES SKYROCKETED!
So again, be careful what you wish for.
Me, I wish we could go back to the regulated electric market. Deregulation stinks in these types of services.