A major Midwest utility, Ameren, said Monday that it had created a new subsidiary to build transmission lines in Missouri and Illinois that will bring more wind power onto the grid – not to mention coal power, from clean to conventional. Steve Hebert for The New York TimesSaying that it was encouraged by a law enacted in June in Illinois that is supposed to streamline the approval process, Ameren, based in St. Louis, said it had $3 billion in potential new power lines in its sights. Financing will be easier to secure under this new structure, said Maureen Borkowski, who was named president and chief executive of the new subsidiary, the Ameren Transmission Company. Creation of a new utility to specialize in transmission is an unusual step, but Ms. Borkowski said that creating a new company that is a “transparent entity in the marketplace” would help it attract capital. The Midwest Independent System Operator, the grid within which Ameren lies, has 5,000 megawatts of wind projects that want to be connected, she said. If wind is added to the grid in large quantities, the company’s 64,000-square-mile territory will become a thoroughfare for that energy, she said. But the existing system is congested, she said, meaning that cheap electricity is kept out of the market at times because there is no way to get it to where it is needed, and more expensive generators are run instead. Often, that cheap electricity is from coal; this situation is common in the United States. In addition, Ameren’s projects would connect to two planned coal plants that would capture the carbon dioxide they emit — Futuregen and the Taylorville Energy Center — and a conventional coal plant now under construction, the Prairie State Energy Campus. And the lines would link to Ameren’s existing Grand Tower plant on the Mississippi River, which was built in 1924 to run on coal but now uses natural gas.
By MATTHEW L. WALD/NYTimes