United Electric dispatch center

Operations clerk Shelly Daniels and Dispatch foreman Chris Anderson work Monday morning in the dispatch center at the United Electric Cooperative office in Savannah, Missouri. Both United employees are tasked with monitoring the locations of the cooperative’s repair crews as they respond to outages and other maintenance needs. United officials have stated that various incentive programs for members help lower average bill statements.

SAVANNAH, Mo. — A nationwide study places Missouri in the 15th position for average utility costs, although area managers maintain customers’ bills reflect the benefits of various incentives.

The report, issued by Move.org, shows the state’s total average utility cost per customer at $407.54 monthly. The website, which provides relocation advice and assistance, partitions that total in the categories of electricity, natural gas, water, internet and cable. In Missouri, those individual averages noted are $115.60 for electric, $76.55 for natural gas, $70.39 for water, $60 for internet and $85 for cable.

The analysis based the electricity averages on consumption and pricing from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, average gas usage and prices from TECO Energy, Leichtman Research Group for internet and cable, and residential water usage from Circle of Blue. Other factors were not considered in the rankings.

Three utilities that serve customers in the St. Joseph area and Northwest Missouri call into question those research methods, saying the tallies do not accurately reflect a real-world experience in typical billing for their customers.

“It’s a little misleading,” said Jim Bagley, chief executive officer of United Electric Cooperative and United Services, referring to the electric portion of the review. “That can vary a lot, depending on the weather. ... The variation (in costs) may be for one part of the year. The biggest factor in electric is temperature.”

Such cooperatives rely on membership to set pricing for the services they receive. Bagley said United was able to return an average of $260 in unmandated energy-efficiency rebates to each member to end the year, based on their amount of electric usage, under a system more than 70 years old.

“We do have energy audits,” he added, explaining the purpose of one staff member who has the ability to offer advice on household consumption habits. There also are rebates for energy-efficient room air conditioners, electric water heaters, water heater and ground-source heat pumps, smart thermostat and basement insulation.

Officials with Evergy also dispute the analysis, stating its average St. Joseph area customer pays on average $110 monthly and that the numbers can fluctuate downward.

“That comes in a little under the (U.S.) average (of $110.76),” Evergy spokeswoman Gina Penzig told News-Press NOW. “That can be a little different.”

Penzig said other factors aren’t calculated, including a household’s relative size and the type of building materials used to construct a residence.

“It doesn’t take into account energy-efficiency programs,” she added, referring to Evergy’s suite of rebates and other incentives for saving on the monthly statements.

“If you’re considering a move, you can call in to our call center and find out the (utility usage) history of that address,” said Penzig.

Spire Energy officials said they are unclear how natural gas costs were figured, affirming that the website’s computations do not correspond with an in-house analysis of average residential costs.

“On average, Spire’s Missouri residential natural gas customers pay between $10 to $20 less per month than the amounts listed,” said Raegan Johnson, a spokeswoman for the utility.

Johnson said Spire has multiple programs that include rebates, financing, budget billing and energy assistance. A furnace repair program provides up to $1,000 in repairs for income-eligible customers who are homeowners or renters.

Missouri American Water said it has yet to evaluate the study, but did note that Move.Org’s amounts for water costs are identical for each state and are based on an average dollar amount. Spokeswoman Christie Barnhart said St. Joseph customers using 4,000 gallons of water a month realized a reduction of .9% in the most recent rate adjustment, for a monthly total of nearly $34 with taxes and fees.

“This is significantly lower than the average” in the study, said Barnhart.

Ray Scherer can be reached

at ray.scherer@newspressnow.com.

Follow him on Twitter: @SJNPScherer.