Ameren: Clean Power Plan could boost transmission investment

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan and FERC’s Order 1000 are expected to present transmission investment opportunities for Ameren in the coming years, Warner Baxter, chairman, president and CEO of Ameren said Nov. 6.

Baxter reported that Ameren is making progress on three new transmission projects in the Midcontinent ISO (MISO) region, while also looking to boost infrastructure investments to modernize the power grid in and around its utility territories in the Midwest.

State plans to implement the Clean Power Plan could include new wind and gas-fired generation projects and transmission enhancements, but those plans may not be finalized until 2018, Baxter said during Ameren’s conference call on 3Q15 earnings.

Baxter noted that Ameren has “serious concerns” with the EPA rule. Aside from the legal challenges that the agency will face, “we believe that many of the underlying assumptions that are the foundation of the [Clean Power Plan] are unreasonable,” and that the rule “will meaningfully raise reliability risks for the grid,” he said.

But “we’re not just saying no” to the Clean Power Plan, as Ameren has proposed solutions to address interim compliance targets and grid reliability protections in a strategic plan the company has developed, Baxter said.

FERC‘s Order 1000, designed to foster regional transmission planning, and compliance with NERC reliability standards also could prompt more transmission development, he said, vowing to work with stakeholders on such efforts.

Ameren unit Ameren Transmission Co. of Illinois (ATXI) is on schedule with its work on the $1.4 billion Illinois Rivers transmission project, as construction of the line is being done in segments and completion is planned for 2016, Baxter said.

The 345-kV Illinois Rivers project, which received final approval from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) in 2014, will run from Palmyra, Mo., crossing the Mississippi River at Quincy, Ill., and extend east past the Illinois towns of Meredosia, Pawnee, Pana, Mt. Zion and Kansas, ending at Sugar Creek, Ind. Additional lines will run from Meredosia to Ipava, Ill., and between the Sidney and Rising substations near Champaign, Ill. The project will span about 370 miles and be placed in service in phases, Ameren has said in previous updates on the line.

Ameren expects to receive an order from the Missouri Public Service Commission (PSC) on the Mark Twain transmission project in early 2016, Baxter said during the earnings call. That $224 million project is a 95-mile, 345-kV line that would extend from the Maywood switching station near Palmyra, Mo., to the Iowa border.

In its application with the Missouri PSC, ATXI requested an order no later than Jan. 31, 2016, so that the company could begin construction in the summer of 2016 to meet an in-service date of November 2018 that was established by MISO.

Construction is expected to begin late next year on ATXI’s Spoon River transmission project in Illinois, Baxter said. The ICC approved the project in September, and ATXI is proceeding with rights of way acquisition, he said.

The Spoon River project is a 46-mile, 345-kV line between Galesburg and Peoria in Illinois, along with a new substation in Galesburg and expanded substation facilities at Fargo, Illinois.

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