The Illinois House of Representatives overwhelmingly approved legislation last week that creates hundreds of jobs for Central and Southern Illinois and modernizes Illinois' electric grid aimed at improving reliability and reducing outages. Senate Bill 9 clarifies a 2011 law that significantly accelerated upgrades to the state's aging electric infrastructure. The measure, which passed the Senate last week, now heads to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk for approval.
"I would like to personally thank Speaker Madigan and Senate President Cullerton for their leadership to help modernize Illinois' energy infrastructure," said Richard Mark, president and CEO of Ameren Illinois. "It's clear that the Leadership and members of the General Assembly recognize the benefits of creating jobs, improving reliability and building a 21st Century energy delivery system. This legislation will help put thousands of people to work statewide to modernize the state's electrical grid, which will ultimately reduce costs for customers."
Under the 2011 modernization law, Ameren Illinois launched its Modernization Action Plan (MAP) to create 450 jobs and invest an additional $625 million over a 10-year period to improve the reliability and performance of its electric delivery infrastructure. The utility initiated plans to hire hundreds of new workers, strengthen poles, replace cables and deploy new technology such as intelligent switches and sensors that can detect and isolate outages for faster service restoration. However, many of the MAP projects and hiring plans were delayed when state regulators would not enable the investments to be fully recovered by the company. Predictable cost recovery is needed to enable the utilities to raise capital and borrow money at reasonable rates to make long-term investments and modernization plans.
"Senate Bill 9 will inject new life into economies in Central and Southern Illinois," said Mark, who thanked the broad coalition of labor unions, employers and contractors for their support.
"The Illinois AFL-CIO strongly supports SB 9. We urge Gov. Quinn to sign it into law," added Illinois AFL-CIO President Michael T. Carrigan. "The electric grid modernization and the proposed Natural Gas Modernization, Public Safety and Jobs Act (SB 1665 – Sen. Dave Koehler and HB 2414 – Rep. Brandon Phelps) are as important to growing the central and southern Illinois economy as upgrading our roads, bridges, airports, and water systems. Residents, small business owners and local governments will pay more tomorrow if we defer our obligations to invest in our infrastructure today."
Strong regulatory oversight and consumer protections remain in the electric legislation, which holds participating utilities to strict performance metrics. As a result, customers will see increased reliability, faster restoration times after outages, reductions in estimated bills, and opportunities to exercise cost-saving control of the energy they use.
"We have a unique opportunity to position Illinois as a national leader in energy innovation," Mark said. "We urge the Governor to enact SB 9. Together we can fulfill the mission to create 'Illinois Jobs Now'."
Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 813,000 natural gas customers in downstate Illinois, and our mission is to meet their energy needs in a safe, reliable, efficient and environmentally responsible manner. Our service area covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles.