Liberty Receives Approval to Update Rates for Missouri Electric Customers

New rates allow Liberty to recover investments in critical infrastructure for improved reliability, consumer-focused technology, and cost-effective renewable energy generation

Joplin, Missouri –May 26, 2022 – On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC) approved updated base rates for Empire District Electric Company (doing business as Liberty). New base rates will go into effect on June 1, 2022. Since the last rate update in 2020, Liberty has invested more than $860 million in critical infrastructure for improved reliability and grid security, technology to enhance customer service, and cost-effective renewable energy generation. In addition, Liberty received approval to implement time-of-use rates beginning October 15, 2022. These rates plans are designed to show customers the correlation between when they use energy – during costlier peak-use times or during less expensive off-peak times – and the respective potential impact on their electric bill. When these rates go into effect in October, customers will pay a lower rate for energy used daily during the off-peak hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Additional optional time-of-use rate structures will be available to residential and small commercial customers. These rate structures are designed to give customers more control over their monthly electric bill. Liberty also received approval to expand programs for qualifying customers that provide financial assistance for energy bills and home weatherization to improve energy efficiency.

Under the MPSC order, a Liberty Missouri residential electric customer using approximately 1,000 kilowatt-hours of energy per month will see an increase of $9.93 per month, or a 7.53% increase.

“Liberty’s investments included in this approved rate update allow us to continue to deliver the safe, reliable energy we know our customers count on for their daily lives. These investments also enable Liberty to reduce operational costs and improve efficiency to help keep energy cost effective over the long-term,” said Tim Wilson, Liberty Vice President, Electric Operations. “Upgrades to our infrastructure make it more secure and more resilient during extreme weather, which means fewer and shorter outages. Clean, renewable energy helps us to protect our environment while reducing energy generation costs; savings that we pass on to customers. And, updated technology allows us to better serve our customers through convenient billing and payment platforms and to offer options, such as new rate plans and access to near-real-time energy usage information, that encourage energy savings and help customers lower their bill. With this approval, we can also do more to help customers who may be struggling with their bills through expanded assistance programs.”

Key investments and improvements included in the rate update

  • Providing customers safe, dependable energy through Liberty’s infrastructure upgrades. These investments bolster reliability and strengthen Liberty’s system and the grid against the impacts of extreme weather events and security threats. Examples include:
    • Minimizing the impact of outages for customers by expanding substations and adding automated switching to help speed power restoration and limit the number of customers who experience an outage
    • Improving safety and reliability by replacing more than 1,500 deteriorating poles
    • Reducing outages caused by wildlife, one of the leading causes of outages, by installing approximately 3,000 wildlife guards. These guards protect our system and protect the curious birds and animals that try to come in contact with our equipment.
  • Providing customers with options to help manage and lower their monthly bill through the installation of smart meters. The automated meter technology helps lower operational costs and supports new, convenient customer service platforms along with time-of-use rate plans that put customers in control of the most cost-effective time to use energy.
  • Transitioning to clean, renewable energy that is expected to save customers money over the long term compared to other energy generation. This included:
    • The construction of Liberty’s 600-megawatt wind energy project consisting of 277 wind turbines on three wind farms in southwest Missouri and southeast Kansas
    • The construction of Liberty’s first regulated Community Solar project near Joplin, Missouri, consisting of approximately 5,700 solar panels placed on an Environmental Protection Agency superfund site, making use of land not suitable for other types of development
  • Expanding financial assistance to customers by continuing Liberty’s low-income pilot program and increasing the available discount to two times the customer charge during the peak heating months of December through February and peak cooling months of June through August. Liberty will also establish a critical needs program and more than double the funding for the low-income weatherization program, from $250,000 to $550,000 annually. This program, funded by Liberty and supported by area assistance agencies, helps to improve energy efficiency at qualifying customer homes to help reduce energy bills.

In addition to the above referenced base rate increase, Missouri customers will also see a change in the fuel adjustment clause (FAC) charge on their bill effective June 1, 2022. This increase is the result of a required semi-annual filing, which represents the charge for the difference between the amount of fuel and purchased power costs established in base rates and the amount of actual fuel and purchased power costs incurred by Liberty. If costs are less, customers see a credit on the Fuel Charge line, and if costs are more, customers see a charge. The charge includes no mark-up profit for the Company. For residential customers using 1,000 kWh of electricity a month, the FAC will increase by approximately $5.85 per month. Beginning June 1, 2022, fuel cost savings related to Liberty’s wind farms will be factored into the updated rate structure and future FAC updates.

About Liberty

Part of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp., Liberty is committed to providing safe and reliable natural gas, water, and electricity distribution services to over one million customer connections. Liberty’s utility operations are primarily located in the United States and Canada and have expanded to Chile and Bermuda. With a customer-centric approach to management, Liberty seeks to provide a superior customer experience through local management of walk-in centers, conservation and energy efficiency initiatives, and programs for businesses and residential customers. We measure our performance in terms of service reliability, customer satisfaction, and public and workplace safety. Liberty’s North American distribution operations include Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Massachusetts, Missouri, New Hampshire, New York, Oklahoma and Texas in the United States, and New Brunswick in Canada. 

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Caution Regarding Forward-Looking Information

Certain statements included in this news release contain information that may be "forward-looking" for purposes of applicable securities laws (collectively, "forward-looking statements"). The words "will", "expects" and similar expressions are often intended to identify forward-looking statements, although not all forward-looking statements contain these identifying words. Specific forward-looking statements in this news release include, but are not limited to, statements regarding expected customer rates and savings and expected programs and investment initiatives. These statements are based on factors or assumptions that were applied in drawing a conclusion or making a forecast or projection, including assumptions based on historical trends, current conditions and expected future developments. Since forward-looking statements relate to future events and conditions, by their very nature they require making assumptions and involve inherent risks and uncertainties. Readers are cautioned that although it is believed that the assumptions are reasonable in the circumstances, these risks and uncertainties give rise to the possibility that actual results may differ materially from the expectations set out in the forward-looking statements. Material risk factors include those set out in the Management Discussion & Analysis and Annual Information Form of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corp. for the year ended December 31, 2021, each of which is available on SEDAR and EDGAR. Given these risks, undue reliance should not be placed on these forward-looking statements, which apply only as of their dates. Other than as specifically required by law, Liberty undertakes no obligation to update any forward-looking statements or information to reflect new information, subsequent or otherwise.