Missouri is considering ‘where’s’ and ‘how’s’ about the new high voltage electricity transmission systems in the state; overhead wires, substations, and the like. Ameren wants to make sure it’s the ‘who’ in the equation.

The utility has created a new subsidiary, the Ameren Transmission Company, or ATX.

“By having this company as a separate entity, it allows us to finance it at the Ameren Corp. level rather than the individual utility level. We believe that as a separate transmission company it will actually be able to attract capital from the marketplace in a different manner than the utilities themselves do,” said Maureen Borkowski, the President of ATX. 

“The idea is that the transmission projects are being identified and approved by the regional transmission operator as needed. We want to be the ones that are in a position to build them when they are in our service territory,” Borkowski said.

Other utilities around the country have made similar steps, but Borkowski says that is not what prompted this move. She says it was based on the survey of needed improvements, many of which she says have been identified by regional energy management entities.

“We have identified more than $3 billion worth of transmission investment opportunity in Missouri and Illinois over the next 10-15 years. Specifically, today’s petition to the FERC is for rate treatment for our initial portfolio of projects call the “Grand Rivers” project,” Borkowski said.

That project is 500 miles of overhead wires in Illinois. The petition she’s talking about is for ‘rate treatments’ through the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, to essentially allow the company to get the projects paid for through a form of rate hikes.

“Several different tariff provision that would allow these ‘rate incentives’ to be put into action and those rate treatments would go into effect once the projects were actually underway,” Borkowski said.

She says with FERC approval, Ameren customers would actually only have to pay for about 15% of the bill. The costs would be spread out equally among all the utility customers in the Midwest ISO, and only 15% of people in that area are Ameren customers. Ameren officials say it would just be a moderate impact on rates for their existing customers, which may even out in the long-term.

“Each of these lines not only enhances reliability, but they also relieve congestion to make more efficient power markets. They provide us flexibility in terms of being able to respond to any environmental regulations or future climate legislation. In addition to that, in many instances, they help to promote the integration and delivery of clean, renewable energy resources,” Borkowski said.

Borkowski says there’s about 5,000 megawatts of wind power waiting to be incorporated to the Ameren system in Illinois. There currently aren’t any projects for ATX planned in Missouri yet.

“That is because in May of this year, the Missouri Public Service Commission convened a ‘transmission summit.’ At the follow-up to that summit, we are meeting with the other utilities in Missouri, the regional transmission organizations, and the Missouri Public Service Commission to try to define what would be the right transmission plan for Missouri,” Borkowski said.

AUDIO: Ryan Famuliner reports [1 min MP3]