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Ameren unveils $5.3 billion grid upgrade plan spurred by changes to utility laws

  

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Missouri’s largest electric provider has unveiled a plan to invest $5.3 billion in infrastructure upgrades, which they say lawmakers made possible by making significant changes to the state’s utility laws last year.

On Friday, Ameren Missouri outlined “the largest infrastructure upgrade plan in the company’s history.” The plan includes more than 2,000 electric projects over the next five years that are aimed at modernizing the energy grid and enhancing how customers receive and consume electricity for generations to come, all while keeping electric rates stable and predictable.

Ameren is touting that “constructive energy legislation” laid the foundation for their plan. During the 2018 regular session, after years of negotiations, the Missouri General Assembly made considerable changes to the state’s utility laws. SB 564, sponsored by Sen. Ed Emery, allows companies to recuperate the cost of grid improvements and caps average annual rate increases at 2.85 percent after base rate freeze is lifted in April 2020.

“It was a culmination of years of work and countless iterations, but it is now law. This was a bipartisan effort,” said Emery.

“I am happy that [Ameren] has come through on [their] commitment,” said Lieutenant Governor Mike Kehoe. “I know that the legislation passed is intended to help our investment owned utilities…be able to deploy those dollars into upgrading the infrastructure and giving us reliable energy.”

In combination with the federal tax cut in December 2017, customers have already seen the benefit, Kehoe noted. In August, Ameren dropped its base rate by 6 percent, which will be frozen until April 2020.

In the next five years, Ameren has more than 2,000 infrastructure improvement projects across the state totaling $5.3 billion in capital investments in addition to $1 billion for wind energy in 2020.  

“We have developed a forward-thinking and customer-focused infrastructure upgrade plan that will not only produce a grid that is more reliable and resilient, but also be able to accommodate more renewable energy,” Michael Moehn, president of Ameren Missouri, said in a written statement. “Our Smart Energy Plan will position us to deliver on our promises to provide more customer benefits, while at the same time keeping rates stable and predictable.”

Upgrades in reliability, resilience, and service throughout the energy company’s 24,000-square-mile service territory are the foundation of the plan.

Highlights include:

  • More than 2,000 infrastructure improvement projects across the state totaling $5.3 billion in capital investments over the next five years, including approximately $1 billion in electric investments in 2019.
  • Major renewable energy projects to continue the transition to a cleaner energy future for customers, including $1 billion for wind energy in 2020. This also includes modernizing the energy grid to allow Ameren Missouri to add more solar energy and battery storage on the system to cost-effectively boost reliability, particularly in rural areas.
  • New smart grid sensors, switches and self-healing equipment to rapidly detect and isolate outages – reducing the number of outages and speeding power restoration when service interruptions occur.
  • A stronger, more secure energy delivery backbone including installing 12,000 new utility poles for storm hardening, many fortified with composite materials to better withstand severe weather.
  • More than 400 miles of new underground cable and equipment to create a more efficient and reliable underground energy delivery system that better serves customers.
  • More than 70 new or upgraded substations to increase energy service reliability and serve more customers through a streamlined network that is more cost-effective and efficient.
  • Adding more than 800,000 smart electric meters through 2023 to give customers more insight and control of their energy options and costs.

Customers can learn more about the plan at AmerenMissouri.com/SmartEnergyPlan, or by attending an informational public stakeholder meeting that opens at 5:30 p.m. March 4 at the Millbottom Event Center, 400 W. Main St. in Jefferson City, Mo., with a presentation starting at 6 p.m.

To view the complete Smart Energy Plan filing, including detailed projects in 2019, visit the Missouri PSC website at https://psc.mo.gov/ and refer to File No. EO-2019-0044.