Those supporting a major energy bill say strengthening the state's electric infrastructure is essential to remain competitive when it comes to attracting technology and manufacturing jobs.

Those supporting a major energy bill say strengthening the state's electric infrastructure is essential to remain competitive when it comes to attracting technology and manufacturing jobs.

The energy bill is being supported by the Missouri Electrical Alliance (MEA), an organization of investor-owned electric service providers.

Lake area Senator Mike Kehoe and Representative Jeanie Riddle each introduced companion bills in the Missouri General Assembly to allow utilities to recover costs for infrastructure investments in a more timely manner, while preserving strong Missouri Public Service Commission oversight, so that these dollars can be more quickly reinvested in additional infrastructure projects.

Supporters of the bill in the Missouri General Assembly are highlighting the benefits of the Infrastructure Strengthening and Regulatory Streamlining (ISRS) legislation that would not only benefit the state but Lake of the Ozarks specifically.

The bill’s impact could be significant for Ameren Missouri. The investor-owned utility serves more than 30,000 customers in the lake area, providing electricity to Lake Ozark, Osage Beach, Linn Creek, Versailles and Eldon.

According to supporters, the ISRS bill would enable electric utilities to make additional investments to modernize Missouri’s aging electric infrastructure, while improving reliability and creating good paying sustainable jobs.

A new report by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), titled Failure to Act, said that by 2020 nationwide shortfalls in needed grid investments are expected to reach nearly $95 billion.

According to the ASCE report, closing the electricity investment gap would lead to fewer brownouts and blackouts and save U.S. businesses $126 billion, prevent the loss of 529,000 jobs and $656 billion in personal income losses for American families. At recent legislative hearings on the ISRS legislation, ASCE submitted testimony in support of the legislation and about the need for states to invest in infrastructure.

To address these issues, all of Missouri’s investor-owned electric service providers have formed the MEA. The organization's members see a need for greater investments in the state's aging infrastructure if the needs and expectations of customers for reliability are to be met in the future, according to Scott Charton, who is heading up the organization.

Supporters, such as Ameren and the MEA, say this legislation would spur greater investments in substations, transformers, poles and wires, as well as other upgrades to existing power generation and distribution facilities.

“If we want to make infrastructure investments in the most cost effective way, we need to update our outdated regulations,” said Charton. “Most states in the country have already modernized their regulatory frameworks in support of additional investments in aging infrastructure; Missouri is falling behind. This situation is slowing growth and delaying investments that would benefit businesses and consumers.”

Similar legislation was passed for natural gas and water utilities in 2003. The bill’s supporters point to the success of ISRS for those utilities and want electric ISRS implemented in order to move ahead with additional investments that will provide benefits in excess of the costs over time.

“There are strong economic benefits to ISRS,” said Charton. “Investing in our infrastructure will create good paying construction jobs in the short term, while the modern infrastructure those jobs build positions our state to compete and attract more jobs in the long term. A reliable electric system is one of the best ways to attract companies looking for the best place in which to expand their business. Keeping electric rates competitive is also critical.”

ISRS could lead to more development of renewable energy sources and investment in modern technology. Utilities like Ameren have discussed using ISRS to develop a Smart Grid pilot project. These are the types of updated energy projects that attract job-creation and economic development, he said.

“Neighboring states are already moving ahead to upgrade their electric infrastructure to better position themselves for economic investment,” said Charton. “Missouri must act to make investments necessary to attract technology and manufacturing companies that depend on a modern, reliable utility infrastructure and competitive electric rates.”