Customers of Liberty Utilities will begin paying new rates that take effect on Sept. 16. The Missouri Public Service Commission denied almost all of the power provider’s request to raise rates.
The Empire District Electric Company, which does business as Liberty Utilities after a merger in 2016, serves power customers in Ozark, Sparta, Clever, Billings, Fremont Hills and the Linden area.
New rates allow Liberty Utilities to earn an additional $992,400 per year from its Missouri customers, far from the increase of $26.5 million in yearly revenue that the company sought when it approached the Missouri Public Service Commission to ask for a rate increase.
A residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per month will pay an additional 48 cents per month for electricity. The increase that Liberty originally filed for on Aug. 14, 2019, would have put the increase at $7.85 per month.
The Missouri Public Service Commission addressed Liberty Utilities for customer service issues that customers brought forward at public hearings in Bolivar, Joplin and Branson in February 2020.
“While the commission finds that Empire (Liberty) is taking steps to improve its customer service, the commission believes it is important to monitor Empire’s progress related to meter reading and billing,” the commission wrote in its decision.
The Missouri Public Service Commission directed Liberty Utilities to evaluate and monitor its staffing levels for meter reading, advising the company to staff its meter reading division in order to reduce the number of electric bills that are determined by estimations rather than by actual kilowatt-hour consumption.
The rate increase was the first that Liberty has requested since it acquired Empire District Electric in 2017. The company claimed that it replaced more than 6,400 utility poles and installed more than 11,000 outage control devices, at a cost of more than $330 million.
Liberty Utilities serves about 155,400 Missouri customers in Barry, Barton, Cedar, Christian, Dade, Dallas, Greene, Hickory, Jasper, Lawrence, McDonald, Newton, Polk, St. Clair, Stone and Taney counties.