Upgrading the grid

Ameren Missouri’s billion-dollar Smart Energy Plan will transform Missouri’s energy grid, including major projects in North County

By Charlotte Beard

On Feb. 15, Ameren Missouri announced its Smart Energy Plan that will transform Missouri’s energy grid and change how customers receive and use energy. Over the period of five years the 

plan will include more than 5.3 billion in capital investments in 2,000 projects across the state, including approximately $1 billion in electric investments in 2019. One of those projects includes the implementation of a $28 million Pershall Substation located at 8680 Pershall Road in Hazelwood.

Kevin Anders, Vice President of Operation and Technical Services shared, “The customers that will be affected by this particular project is (approximately) 12,000 businesses and residences in North County. The area is bounded by I-270 on the north side to West Florissant on the east side, I-170 on the west side, and I-70 on the south side. If you’re in that area your reliability will benefit. It is a substation that will replace four other substations in that area that were built in the 1950s and 60s. The energy that this substation receives will come directly from the transmission system; none of the four subs that we’ll replace does that. That alone will improve reliability.”

The improvement should be noticeable in the area. 

“The transmission system is very reliable and robust, so that’s a big improvement,” Anders said. “The power transformers, circuit breakers, and protective relays that we will have in the substation are all brand-new modern technology. There has been a lot of advances made since the stuff we put in back in the 50s and 60s. The equipment is much more reliable, it’s smarter – it will tell us when it needs to be maintained. It’s a lot less expensive to maintain than the old equipment.”

Anders went on to share that the energy carried by the lines that leave the new substation and go to those 12,000 houses and businesses in the area impacted by the substation will be at a higher voltage than what is in the existing four substations.

 “Because it’s at a higher voltage,” stated Anders, “there are a lot of upgrades that (need) to happen on those lines. Every single transformer that hangs on a pole in that whole area will be replaced with one that is brand-new.” 

Approximately 1,500 poles will be changed as part of this project. Some of the circuits that run through those neighborhoods on poles will be undergrounded. Ameren will install approximately 25 or 30 smart switches on those distribution lines. 

“This will really reduce that amount of time it takes to restore power if you have damage on a distribution line,” Anders said. 

Anders also shared that the insulation between the utility poles and wires will be upgraded as well due to the higher voltage that will be carried to homes and businesses. Insulation upgrades include those poles in locations where new poles are not required. Ameren estimates the replacement of 12,000 utility poles across the state which will be a composite material that is resistant to high winds and other harsh weather. Also, they expect to install approximately 400 miles of underground cable in areas and neighborhoods that first received underground cable. Its pre-existing technology is not deemed to be the best quality which was installed in the 70s and early 80s.

Ameren will invest this year completing the detailed engineering design for the various parts of the project. Construction for the Pershall Substation will begin in 2020 with completion prior to 2021 and the system energized for usage. The plan is to have a third of the power line upgrades completed during this period as well, with full completion by the end of 2022 and the 12,000 customers online with the new substation.

Ameren will also upgrade its meter system. More than 800,000 electric meters will be replaced with smart electric meters over a five-year period.

Anders stated, “(This) will allow customers better visibility into their energy usage so that they can control their energy costs better.”

Other benefits to all customers, which will also help reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent, includes Ameren’s renewable energy projects like the $1 billion vested for wind energy in 2020. 

 “There are provisions to make sure the effect on customers’ rates will stay predictable and affordable over these next five years,” stated Anders. “In August 2018 we passed along a six percent rate decrease. Those rates will stay frozen and cannot be increased until April 2020. Any increases that occur after that have a rate cap associated with it.”

“Building a smart grid for the future of energy in Missouri is foundational to our mission to power the quality of life for our customers and the communities we serve for generations to come,” said Michael Moehn, president of Ameren Missouri. 

To view the complete Smart Energy Plan filing, including detailed projects in 2019, visit the Missouri PSC website at https://psc.mo.gov/ and refer to File No. EO-2019-0044. Customers can learn more about the plan at AmerenMissouri.com/SmartEnergyPlan, or by attending an informational public stakeholder meeting that opens at 5:30 p.m. March 4 at the Millbottom Event Center, 400 W. Main St. in Jefferson City, Missouri, with a presentation starting at 6 p.m.

CUTLINE: Submitted photos Ameren Missouri’s Smart Energy Plan will transform Missouri’s energy grid and change how customers receive and use energy. One of those projects includes the implementation of a $28 million Pershall Substation located at 8680 Pershall Road in Hazelwood.