The Ameren Illinois Utilities have applied for $45 million in matching grants from the $787-billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus program) to help fund Smart Grid projects that will improve overall electric service reliability.

"If our request is approved, our customers will benefit from advanced smart grid technologies that will improve service reliability, help our customers better manage their electrical usage, allow us to restore service more quickly when outages do occur and enhance safety for our co-workers," said Ron Pate, Ameren Illinois Utilities (AIU) vice president of Regional Operations.

AIU's Smart Grid Project will cost $83 million, of which $75 million is eligible for a 50 percent federal match of $37.5 million. In addition, AIU is requesting $7.5 million for an Advanced Distribution Management System. AIU's total cost for this project is $15 million.

The key components of the Smart Grid Project include:

  • Upgrading of more than 100 electrical substations with advanced smart substation equipment, while establishing a smart substation design standard for all new substations. This effort will improve service reliability, operating efficiency and safety.
  • Installing smart grid diagnostic technology that will help AIU identify equipment problems and make corrections before service is interrupted.
  • Installing several hundred smart switches on distribution lines to reduce the number and duration of service interruptions.
  • Providing new technology that will allow AIU to better manage the transmission of electricity from suppliers to customers, resulting in improved operating efficiencies and a higher degree of service reliability.
  • Expanding AIU's E-Smart Programmable Thermostat Program, which allows AIU to better manage peak electrical loads while providing customers greater control over their energy usage.
  • Encouraging the growth of AIU's Power Smart Pricing Program, which enables customers to use electricity at those times of the day when the cost of electricity is low.

The Advanced Distribution Management System will serve as a foundation for the AIU Smart Grid Project. This system will provide a common interface to monitor, control and manage the electrical distribution system and smart electrical devices. It also will enhance AIU's ability to identify and isolate electrical faults that cause service outages, which in turn will help speed the restoration of electrical service.

AIU will ask the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) to approve a rider that will allow AIU to add a small charge to customer bills to recover AIU's portion of the project costs. The ICC must approve the proposed projects before they are implemented and costs recovered through a rider.