- Ameren Missouri last week filed a $6.3 billion Smart Energy Plan with state regulators, sketching out an aggressive slate of projects the utility wants to complete in the next five years.
- The investments include $1 billion in projects slated for this year and $1 billion for wind energy in 2020. Ameren wants to modernize its electric grid, also adding more solar energy and battery storage to boost reliability, particularly in rural areas.
- Ameren says its plan is consistent with Missouri Senate Bill 564, which last year authorized utility investments in modernization but also instituted a rate cut and cap. The filing, which includes a five-year overview and detailed one-year plan, will now be reviewed by the state's Public Service Commission.
Ameren customers' rates are locked in until April 2020, and a cap on the size of rate increases is designed to make rates more stable and predictable. But $6.3 billion is still a big number that regulators are being asked to consider. And according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, an analysis by state regulators shows the law passed last year could raise rates an additional 9.74% through 2028.
But Ameren's Smart Energy Plan will allow the utility to "provide more customer benefits, while at the same time keeping rates stable and predictable," Ameren Missouri President Michael Moehn said in a statement.
Ameren's plan includes $5.3 billion in capital investments for more than 2,000 infrastructure projects over the next five years. Separately, the plan includes major renewable energy projects, including $1 billion for wind energy in 2020, and grid modernization work to allow for more solar energy and battery storage.
Ameren also wants to install new smart grid sensors, switches and self-healing equipment, 12,000 new utility poles for storm hardening, more than 400 miles of new underground cable and equipment the utility says will "create a more efficient and reliable underground energy delivery system that better serves customers."
The plan also calls for more than 70 new or upgraded substations, and installing more than 800,000 smart electric meters through 2023.
Deployment of advanced metering infrastructure is an expensive undertaking, and regulators in several states have recently slowed rollouts and called for utilities to make a stronger business case for the investment. Ameren's plan includes almost $245 million for smart meters.
Ameren's plan says the new meters will provide customers with "greater control and visibility into their usage," enhanced customer alerts and more flexible energy management options. The utility rolled out automated meter reading technology more than two decades ago, but says that technology doesn’t allow for two-way information flows or real-time feedback.
"Smart meter technology will also facilitate better storm response, faster service restoration and the ability to remotely reconnect services, which will all lead to greater efficiencies and contribute to customer affordability," according to the plan.
The largest line item in Ameren's proposal is a $1.9 billion investment in "smart, reliable grid operations" which covers a wide range of initiatives, including: circuit performance improvements, distributed solar and energy storage, line capacity increases and substation enhancements.
Ameren officials say they are holding a public meeting on March 4 so customers can learn more about the proposal.