One of the largest utility companies in the U.S. Midwest, Ameren, has announced that it will spend $7.6 billion on a five-year grid modernization plan that includes installing smart meters for its more than 1.2 million customers, adding solar energy and battery storage in rural areas, switching to storm-resilient utility poles and wires, and purchasing 700 megawatts (MW) of wind power, Utility Drive reported.
The initiative, known as the Smart Energy Plan, is the latest expansion of Ameren’s green-energy push. The company, which serves homes and businesses in Missouri and Illinois, announced three years ago that it would retire more than half of its coal-fired generating capacity by the end of 2022. Ameren has already made substantial investments in green energy and energy efficiency programs in Illinois, starting in 2011. The new $7.6 billion program would focus on Missouri
The utility plans to install 120,000 smart meters in Missouri in 2020 and more than 800,000 by 2023, as well as web portals that customers can use to access their energy data, Greentech Media reported. Ameren also aims to purchase 50 MW of solar in Missouri by 2025 and 100 MW by 2027. Lastly, the $7.6 billion strategy includes spending $1 billion for wind energy in 2020.
Missouri currently lags far behind its midwestern neighbors in wind capacity — Illinois has more than 5 gigawatts (GW), Oklahoma has 8 GW, and Iowa has 10 GW. As Ameren prepares to close some of its coal-fired power plants, investments in wind energy could help narrow this gap in electricity generation.
Ameren’s annual earnings have gone up in recent years since launching its green energy initiative — in 2019, the company’s net income was $828 million, up from $815 million in 2018, according to Utility Drive. The utility said the Smart Energy Plan could bring more than 3,000 jobs to Missouri.
“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.”