A new power substation under construction in Shiloh is the latest example of Ameren Illinois' plans to upgrade the grid.
The $6 million Tamarack Substation being built on Cross Street is a capital investment to improve the local electric infrastructure. Ameren Illinois spokesman Brian Bretsch said the project is part of Ameren Illinois' overall operations budget that is funded through rates. The new substation is expected to be completed next year.
"Obviously there is a lot of residential and business expansion of Shiloh area and this just really helps improve reliability for businesses and residential customers out there as they continue to grow," Bretsch said. "It is just important that this gives us reliability and ties into other substations, should there be an outage in the area."
This is in addition to other reinvestment projects the utility company is making across the state to comply with the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, which was enacted in the fall of 2011. Bretsch said the legislation provides additional resources to enable Ameren Illinois to accelerate investments in smart grid improvements such as intelligent switching and distribution automation.
"That allows us to use our smart switches and censors to quickly access power from one circuit to another," he said. "It will greatly reduce power outages for customers."
Ameren Illinois began replacing the out-of-date electrical infrastructure last year by investing $22 million across Southwestern Illinois. The infrastructure improvements will cover 43,700 square miles in Illinois.
Ameren is investing $9 million at its Belleville substations. This includes $400,000 already invested in capacity and reliability improvements at the Richland Creek Substation, $175,000 in upgrades to the South Belleville substation, $900,000 in line work to support construction of the Concordia Substation that will connect with 44th Street and Millstadt substations, $2.5 million to build a new West Haven Substation at 1700 Freeburg Ave. and $1.9 million in infrastructure improvements to the C Street and Second Street substation at 217 N. Missouri Ave.
Additional investments include $10.3 million in Waterloo, $5.5 million in Alton, $1.6 million in Marine and $1.9 million in Jerseyville.
Bretsch said the eventual cost of these upgrades are costing residential customers an average of $3.40 a year, as of 2012, through 2022.
The Citizens Utility Board in Chicago has been following this and other Illinois utilities on behalf of consumers for the past three decades. Board spokesman Jim Chilsen said although Ameren Illinois has cut electric rates by $45 million as of last January, the consumer advocacy group is anticipating the utility company will request a rate increase next January.
"It's a work in progress for Ameren," Chilsen said. "I think its customers are counting on the company to make upgrades that will open the doors to making it affordable through a more reliable power grid. But Ameren has a long way to go to achieve that. We want to make sure consumers get the benefits of these upgrades and not just the bill. Ameren has a lot to prove, yet."
Contact reporter Will Buss at email@example.com or 239-2526.