Energy at Work

by Daetta Jones
Ameren Illinois

As Director of Division 1 operations for Ameren Illinois, I'm often asked about the scope of our local operations. Each day, our customers may pass a substation or two, observe a bucket truck and our yellow-vested workers working the lines high above the street in a local neighborhood, or notice as our crews upgrade the natural gas pipelines underground.

But most folks likely don't realize what it takes to build and maintain the physical infrastructure that is needed to deliver energy safely and reliably. They don't think about the personnel, equipment and support resources needed to ensure that the lights stay on. They may be unaware of improvements that are being made each day to modernize this system to meet the needs of local energy customers.

As most people know, Peoria was formerly headquarters for Central Illinois Light Company (CILCO), which was acquired by Ameren Corporation in 2004. Today, Ameren Illinois serves 1.2 million customers in 1,200 communities over a 43,000 square-mile territory. That’s three-quarters of the land mass in the entire state.

Peoria is home to our Division 1 operations, which I manage along with my team. We operate out of Washington (electric), Peoria (electric and natural gas), Kewanee (electric and natural gas), Galesburg (electric and natural gas) and LaSalle (electric and natural gas). Our 371 local employees are responsible for building and maintaining a vast electric and natural gas infrastructure, including 9,622 miles of power lines and 3,657 miles of natural gas pipeline. At our downtown Peoria offices, you'll find our customer service center employees, energy efficiency personnel and other administrative support professionals.

We're excited about the investments we have been making to modernize our system and improve reliability for our customers:

  • New technology is being installed on the energy grid that senses the condition of the electric system and automatically reroutes power from another source to both minimize the number of customers affected by an outage, and reduce the overall length of outages.
  • We've added 90,000 smart meters in Galesburg, Kewanee and LaSalle. Beginning in August, we will install an additional 90,000 smart meters for customers in Peoria County. The smart meters share energy usage data with us and allow customers to control their costs.
  • We're also fortifying and storm-hardening our power poles to strengthen the durability of the grid and better withstand weather events, and installing high-strength, corrosion-resistant natural gas distribution pipelines and service connections.

What does it all mean? We're in the results business, and the results of these investments are clear.

  • Reliability is up 17 percent.
  • We're experiencing 238,000 fewer outages each year.
  • We're restoring power 19-percent faster.
  • These improvements are saving our customers an average of $45 million each year.
  • We've added hundreds of new jobs and increased wages and benefits.

We appreciate the responsibility we have to ensure that our business partners have the power they need to meet the needs of their customers. So, the next time you're out, take a moment to notice the energy infrastructure that surrounds you, and think of the people who work hard every day to make it run. iBi