Increasing vegetation management by $15 million to focus on tree removal and more aggressive trimming, comprehensive pole and line inspections and changes in regulatory tariffs to require burial of all new electric services were among the many AmerenUE recommendations for improving service during severe storms.

The ideas submitted today to the Missouri Public Service Commission (MoPSC) came in response to a Dec. 7 commission request made in the wake of severe 2006 storms that caused hundreds of thousands to lose power. The company stressed that today's submission offers preliminary ideas and concepts that will require further analysis to determine future benefits, costs and barriers to implementation.

"Clearly we welcome the commission's inquiry because it provides an important opportunity for constructive dialog about complex issues, and we fully understand the frustration of AmerenUE customers and the commission in the wake of severe 2006 storms," says AmerenUE President and Chief Executive Officer Thomas R. Voss. "Unfortunately, there is no simple solution to the problems caused to energy delivery systems by extreme weather damage.

"We welcome a public dialog to determine future actions and investments that are necessary to 'harden' the AmerenUE system during severe storms," he added. "One key to success will be working with the commission to determine the best public policy approach to investment in greater reliability. Many of the approaches we offer in this submission will require additional resources from the company, from local communities and from AmerenUE customers who pay some of the lowest electric rates in the nation."

The company will soon select a consultant who is experienced in evaluating utilities' storm response to make recommendations on hardening AmerenUE's energy delivery system. The company will provide periodic reports on the consultant's findings to the commission.

"Reliable delivery of electric service ultimately requires continued investment in generation and transmission and in distribution system infrastructure," Voss stressed. "We are seeking constructive solutions that involve consideration of a range of options to finance these improvements. AmerenUE must continue to invest in significant additions to generation and transmission to meet our customers' needs."

The full listing, which can be found on http://www.ameren.com/ , includes approaches to implementing and funding:

  • removal and more aggressive trimming of trees.
  • more comprehensive pole and line inspection programs.
  • completion of a tap fusing program (tap fuses operate like the breaker in a home to isolate a problem on the lines).
  • improved responsiveness, data collection and information flow in AmerenUE's present customer service systems to assist in restoration and provide customers with more accurate, timely and complete information.
  • This could include such improvements as allowing customers to report outage on the internet.

Longer-term recommendations that require further development and consideration involve:

  • modifying current regulatory tariffs to require burying lines for all future construction on the distribution system.
  • phased-in replacement of the existing 26,800 miles of overhead circuits with underground lines.
  • involving municipalities in developing local ordinances requiring all new and upgraded services to be located underground.
  • extensive circuit rehabilitation and rebuilding programs.
  • even more aggressive vegetation management practices.
  • a customer generator installation program.

Today's submission also includes a recommendation that the company implement the MoPSC staff's earlier recommendations on storm response -- as described in AmerenUE's letter to the staff dated Dec. 21 2006. (The Dec. 21 letter can be found on http://www.ameren.com/ ).