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Ameren Illinois plans to modernize central Illinois electric grid

A map shows where the modernization project will be in Peoria County.
Camryn Cutinello
A map shows where the modernization project will be in Peoria County.

Ameren Illinois is planning an electric grid transformation, replacing or upgrading nearly 85% of transmission lines across central Illinois.

The project is currently in the planning stages, but project manager Drew Beahm said it will increase the transmitter capacity and reliability.

“It's useful to think of this as a roadway,” he said. “So over time, new roads need to be built, existing roads need to be expanded. And in some cases, old roads need to be retired. And that's what we're doing with this project. So, we're adding transmission capacity. So, we're removing more energy more efficiently from a more diversified set of power generation sources.”

The project will extend from the Iowa border and cut across central Illinois to the Indiana border, including Peoria, Fulton, Tazewell and McLean counties.

Beahm said customers can expect to see their energy bills rise by around 30 cents a month, but that ultimately the project will lower energy costs in the area.

“This project is increasing transmission capacity, which will put downward pressure on cost for the foreseeable future,” he said.

Beahm said the project also will prevent blackouts during severe weather.

“This project will increase the reliability and the resiliency of the system,” he said. “So when a storm comes through, when a tornado comes through, this is increasing the resiliency of the system. So if one set of transmission lines come down, we have a redundant set.”

Beahm said the modernization will allow for the system to grow with new forms of energy, including green energy sources such as solar or wind.

Ameren is hosting open house meetings in communities across central Illinois to get public feedback on the project and answer questions.

In 2024 the company is expected to begin pursuing additional land it will need to complete the project, with construction scheduled to begin in 2026. Different communities will have different start dates.

The new grid is expected to be complete in 2030.

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Camryn Cutinello is a reporter at WCBU. You can reach Camryn at cncutin@ilstu.edu.