AmerenUE plans to invest $1 billion over the next three years to improve reliability, upgrade delivery systems, and enhance the environmental performance of its power plants.
"With the severe weather patterns of the past few years and a focus on improving air quality, we are working even harder to ensure reliability for our customers of today and tomorrow," said Thomas R. Voss, president and chief executive officer of AmerenUE. "We've been working closely with community officials and leaders across our system to determine the best approach for improving our delivery system, while ensuring that we meet the growing demand for energy."
Named "Project Power On," this three-year initiative involves a commitment over and above the $500 million per year the company has been spending on efforts to upgrade and maintain the system.
Project Power On involves four components designed to address the region's current and future energy and environmental needs. These include:
- $300 million over three years for undergrounding and reliability improvement - AmerenUE is planning to increase company spending by $100 million per year to better protect the system against severe weather. This includes a substantial underground cabling effort in neighborhoods most at risk of electric service disruption and where undergrounding is feasible, improves reliability, and makes economic sense.
- $135 million over three years ($45 million annually) for tree-trimming -- Nearly twice the budget of a few years ago, AmerenUE is pursuing a more aggressive tree removal and trimming plan that will include trimming on private property with the property owner's consent. This program targets electric lines built to serve new developments over the past four decades; many new trees planted during that time now jeopardize the system in severe weather. The company will continue to work with local governments on ways to handle tree issues both on public lands and private property.
- $84 million over three years (approximately $28 million per year) for circuit and device inspection and repair -- AmerenUE is increasing the frequency of pole repair and replacement and establishing a "foot patrol" inspection program, in addition to the visual inspection done by tree-trimming staff. This aggressive preventive maintenance will help identify, repair, and/or replace poles and other equipment prior to failure. The company is expanding its pole and line inspection programs to include all poles. These efforts will be supported by new technology that allows crews to check the integrity of lines throughout the distribution system.
- $500 million over three years to address the growing energy needs of the region by installing environmental controls on existing plants so that they meet or do better than federal environmental standards -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Clean Air Interstate Rule (CAIR) calls for reductions of nitrogen oxide emissions by 70 percent and sulfur dioxide by 65 percent - both by 2015 - and the Clean Air Mercury Rule (CAMR) calls for mercury emission reductions of 70 percent by 2018. With this $500 million investment, AmerenUE expects to improve air quality for future generations. Most of the funding will go toward installing scrubbers at AmerenUE's Sioux Plant, helping AmerenUE achieve compliance with EPA and state requirements.
"We know what our customers want," Voss said. "When they flip a switch, they want the lights to come on, and these initiatives will help us reliably supply that electricity -- now and into the future. A significant part of this goal is continuing our environmental leadership role, ensuring our plants are clean and efficient, while addressing the increasing energy needs of our region."
Voss added that, in addition to committing funding for a range of projects, the company has appointed a full-time project manager as the primary contact for this effort. In April, AmerenUE hired an experienced consultant to help evaluate its reliability and storm response. KEMA Inc. has extensive experience in the areas of emergency response, reliability, and maintenance practices. KEMA will develop a Storm Adequacy Study that will be shared with regulators.
Voss stressed that AmerenUE continues to welcome a public dialogue to determine future actions and investments that are necessary to prepare the AmerenUE system for severe storms. He said that working with the regulators, community leaders, and customers will be key in determining the best public policy approach to investment in greater reliability.
With 1.2 million customers, AmerenUE is Missouri's largest electric company and third largest provider of natural gas. Ameren, through its operating companies, serves 2.4 million electric and 1 million natural gas customers in a 64,000-square-mile area of Illinois and Missouri.