Ameren Illinois has submitted a blueprint for its 10-year, $625-million infrastructure improvement and modernization initiative to the Illinois Commerce Commission.

"Jobs creation is a key element of our Modernization Action Plan initiative," said Michael Moehn, Ameren Illinois senior vice president of Customer Operations. "Through these additional positions, we will provide Illinois residents with new career opportunities throughout downstate Illinois."

Ameren Illinois will create more than the required 450 additional jobs in 2015, the peak year of the 10-year initiative. Job creation is beginning this year and will increase until the peak year is reached.

"We are beginning a historic process that will enable Ameren Illinois to accelerate the process of modernizing its electric distribution system over the next 10 years in order to meet the service expectations of our customers in the 21st century," Moehn said.

"This initiative was made possible by the enactment of Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act last October coupled with the enactment of companion legislation in December. Both pieces of legislation enjoyed the strong support of many labor unions, business groups and environmental organizations," Moehn said.

"Customers will benefit through improved service reliability and a greater potential for energy savings. The law also is designed to provide greater regulatory certainty and financial stability for participating utilities."

In addition to jobs that will be created through the infrastructure modernization and improvement initiative, Ameren Illinois currently has openings for more than 200 full-time positions.

Individuals interested in a utility career are encouraged to visit the Ameren Illinois website and select "Careers" to learn about openings and submit an application.

In the submission, Ameren Illinois identified the estimated 10-year investment levels for the six program categories.

Infrastructure Improvements: In addition to regular infrastructure spending, the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act allows Ameren Illinois to invest an additional estimated $258 million in system improvements and modernizations which will improve service reliability.

Distribution Automation: Investing an additional estimated $169 million in automated intelligent switching devices, sensors and microprocessor- based relays throughout the system will allow Ameren Illinois to more quickly detect and isolate system problems. This will serve to prevent some outages and limit both the size and duration of other outages.

Advanced Metering Infrastructure: An estimated $174 million will be invested to install automated "smart" meters. About 62 percent of electric customers will have these meters at the end of the 10-year program. It is planned to provide these meters to all customers within 15 years. These meters will provide customers with information to help them become better energy consumers and lay the foundation for expanded energy options.

Training Facilities: About $7 million will be invested to develop a state-of-the-art training center and upgrade an existing training center. The new facility will focus on automated relay and smart grid training, but also will serve as another site for electric system training for both existing and new co-workers.

Distribution System Optimization: An estimated $11-million investment will allow Ameren Illinois to install equipment on portions of its electric distribution system to allow the company to maintain a lower, more efficient distribution system voltage. This will benefit customers by lowering overall electricity demand and usage

Technology Enhancements: Using an estimated $6.5-million investment, Ameren Illinois will install a new advanced electricity distribution system management system. This advanced system will allow Ameren Illinois to better monitor, control and restore service.