- Ameren on Wednesday filed an expansion of its Smart Energy Plan (SEP) with Missouri regulators, laying out a strategy to install 1.2 million smart meters by 2025 and purchase two wind farms totaling 700 MW by the end of this year. The total price tag for the modernization plan is more than $7.6 billion.
- The utility's initial $6.3 billion grid modernization plan was filed with the Missouri Public Service Commission last year. Since then, Ameren says it has completed 900 projects, including installing new storm-resilient utility poles and smart switches to reduce outages, and completing 13 new or upgraded substations.
- Ameren also announced its earnings this week, including 2019 net income of $828 million, or $3.35/diluted share, compared to 2018 net income of $815 million. The utility said higher earnings were a result of increased infrastructure and energy efficiency investments, and higher natural gas delivery rates in its Illinois territory.
Ameren's grid modernization effort in the Show Me State includes $1.2 billion to purchase two wind facilities this year and almost $280 million for smart meters through 2025, along with transmission upgrades, technology invesments and a host of other capital expenditures. The plan will help the utility catch up with modernization efforts in its Illinois territory, which lawmakers there authorized in 2011.
Ameren told regulators it expects to spend $1.1 billion in Missouri in 2020, in addition to the wind purchase, rising to about $1.3 billion in each of the next four years. Officials say ultimately every Ameren customer will have advanced metering and the state will see the benefits of a more sophisticated electric delivery system.
The utility filed its SEP strategy as a capital investment plan with the Missouri Public Service Commission on Feb. 26.
"Grid modernization investments in our Ameren Illinois Electric Distribution business have been delivering significant benefits to customers in the state of Illinois for years, and investments made under the Smart Energy Plan filed in 2019 are already delivering customer benefits and creating new jobs in the state of Missouri," Ameren Corp. Chairman, President and CEO Warner Baxter said in the company's earnings statement.
Illinois passed legislation in 2011 to invest in grid modernization, while Missouri passed a bill allowing for additional grid spending in 2018. Ameren's 2024 funding level for SEP assumes that the smart grid legislation will be extended.
According to the utility, Missouri efforts are already paying off. The utility says there were more than two dozen economic incentive applications through SEP pending at end of 2019, which could bring more than 3,000 jobs to the state. The utility makes the incentives available to new and existing businesses seeking to locate or expand in Missouri.
Along with the wind facilities to be purchased this year, the utility says solar generation and battery storage are also part of the plan to boost reliability in rural areas.
"The Smart Energy Plan means investment in state-of-the-art technology, equipment and controls to reduce outages and restore power faster when they happen," Ameren Missouri President Marty Lyons said in a statement. "We've been able to continue our system upgrades and create significant jobs while lowering rates over the last two years."
For the fourth quarter ending of 2019, Ameren recorded net income of $94 million, compared with $68 million in the same period of 2018. The utility said the the year-over-year increase was due to higher infrastructure investments across all business segments, and lower operating expenses at non-nuclear energy centers in Missouri.