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    Ameren Illinois has filed a request for a $206.4 million rate hike to pay for upgrades to its power grid.

    Ameren filed the rate hike request April 17. If approved, it would take effect in January 2015.

    The rate hike affects delivery charges which is the price customers pay to have the electricity delivered to their homes. For Ameren residents of Peoria and central Illinois, the proposed increase would mean an 8.3 percent increase for average use –10,000 kwh of electricity per year– adding an additional $6.37 to $9.55 per month to a customer’s electric bill.

    The proposal for new delivery rates is in accordance with passage of the “Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act,” or “smart-grid bill,” passed by the Illinois General Assembly in 2011. The law uses a formula to determine Ameren rates each year for up to the next decade to pay for $625 million in system upgrades.

    Ameren has called the bill a job program, noting that they have added 250 employees since its passage, along with an additional 1,000 contract workers.

    The utility plans to install new meters at customer locations beginning this summer. The upgrades will help Ameren detect and isolate outages faster.

    Among the infrastructure improvements planned across the state is a $5 million project to upgrade the East Peoria Wallace Substation.

    Other projects are also planned for the Pekin and Peoria areas over the next few years, the utility stated in a release.

    The Citizens Utility Board, the Chicago-based utility watchdog, opposes the hike.

    “After an expensive winter, this is the last thing Ameren customers want to hear. That’s why CUB will analyze every penny of the company’s rate-hike request and do our best to eliminate unjustified spending and reduce the proposed increase as much as possible,” said David Kolata, CUB’s executive director.

    “These power grid improvements, if done right, should pay for themselves in the long run, but the key moving forward is to hold Ameren accountable.”