Compared with consumers in other states, Missourians don’t pay a lot for electricity.

According to data supplied by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, Missouri ranks near the bottom of all 50 states in terms of the lowest average annual residential and commercial electricity rates.

The typical Missouri consumer pays around $84.14 per month for electricity. When you consider that the average consumers in Hawaii, Rhode Island and Massachusetts pay over $200 per month, we have it pretty good here.

Actually, we’ve had it good for a long time.

That could change as our state’s largest public utility transitions to clean energy. Ameren announced last year it was committing billions of dollars to attain a net-zero carbon emissions goal by 2050 for all of its Missouri operations.

Someone has to pay for the conversion from coal-fired power plants, like the one in Labadie in Franklin County, to renewable energy generation. And it’s expected consumers are going to bear a portion of that cost. Call it the price of progress.

The Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) is holding public hearings this week on a proposed rate hike filed by Ameren. The utility is seeking to increase its electric base rate by 12 percent, or about $299 million annually, to help pay for its recent investments in wind energy and for power grid upgrades and other expenses.

In fact, a sizable amount of this rate request is to cover costs associated with system-hardening efforts and improving and modernizing its power distribution system. But a portion of it is related to paying for its recent development of wind farms in northern Missouri.

The company says the increase would raise bills for average residential customers by $12 per month, or $144 per year. A companion rate case seeking to increase Ameren’s natural gas base rate would cost consumers approximately $4 a month.

If approved, the rate increase is expected to take effect by Feb. 28, 2022, and would impact all 44,749 Ameren electric customer meters in Franklin County.

As far as rate increases go, this is considered a big one — anything with double digits is significant. For those consumers already just barely getting by, it’s going to hurt.

It is being proposed at a time when inflation is driving up the cost of just about everything. And if it does go through, it likely won’t be the last one. Analysts predict more rate increases in the future as Ameren takes more coal-generating plants offline and shifts to renewable energy.

The question becomes: Who should bear the cost of this transition? Anyone who follows Ameren’s stock knows that it is a healthy, profitable company. They are making money. But it takes real money to maintain the existing power grid, let alone develop new power-generating systems. And Ameren’s customers haven’t paid a lot for power in the past.

This is where the PSC’s review and scrutiny becomes critical. It has to guard the public’s interest in these rate cases and determine what is appropriate for consumers to pay and what is fair for Ameren to pay.

Regardless of what the PSC decides in this case, it appears likely we are going to pay more for electricity in the future.