Ameren Sheds Coal for Renewables as it Emerges Stronger from 2020
Researched by Industrial Info Resources (Sugar Land, Texas)--Midwestern utility Ameren Corporation (NYSE:AEE) (St. Louis, Missouri) is preparing to spend $17.1 billion through 2025 on growth capital projects, as it joins its peers in building out transmission and distribution (T&D) infrastructure, reducing its coal-fired capacity and adopting renewable energy. Ameren emerged from 2020 with $871 million in net earnings, a 5.2% gain from 2019, despite headwinds from the COVID-19 pandemic. Industrial Info is tracking more than $740 million in active projects from Ameren, about $200 million of which is under construction or scheduled to begin construction in 2021.
Ameren's T&D segment saw its 2020 earnings grow to $216 million, a 16.8% increase from 2019, due in part to earnings from infrastructure projects that have been completed in recent years. Toward the end of the year, Ameren expects to begin construction on its proposed $23 million gas-insulated substation in Wright City, Missouri, while an estimated $110 million rebuilding of power lines from Whitewater to Bonne Terre, Missouri, running about 63 miles, is slated to begin toward the end of 2022. Both projects are designed to improve grid stability in central and southern Missouri. For more information, see Industrial Info's reports on the substation and power lines.
Last year, Ameren announced it would aim to reduce its carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to zero by 2050, joining utilities such as American Electric Power Company Incorporated (AEP) (NYSE:AEP) (Columbus, Ohio) and Duke Energy Corporation (NYSE:DUK) (Charlotte, North Carolina) in vowing to clean up its portfolio. The company's Missouri subsidiary is seeking permits for several proposed solar farms, including:
- a solar facility in Utica, utilizing silicon photovoltaic (PV) panels; see project report
- a solar facility in Green City, also utilizing silicon PV panels; see project report
- a solar facility in Richwoods, with 10 MW of PV panels; see project report
Industrial Info also is tracking the development of battery energy storage system (BESS) units at these three solar plants, each of which uses lithium-ion technology. For more information, see Industrial Info's reports on the Richwoods, Green City and Utica BESS projects.
For details on other utilities planning to dramatically reduce or eliminate CO2 emissions, see November 23, 2020, article - AEP Capital Investments Remain Focused on T&D Business, and February 12, 2021, article - Duke Energy Buckles Up for Renewables Ride as it Aims for Net-Zero Carbon Emissions.
"We are targeting adding 5,400 megawatts of new renewable wind and solar generation resources to our generation portfolio by 2024," said Warner Baxter, the chief executive officer of Ameren, in a recent quarterly earnings-related conference call. "Our plan also includes advancing the retirement of two coal-fired energy centers, extending the life of our carbon-free Callaway nuclear energy center to eight years, and partnering with the Electric Power Research Institute in assessing advanced clean-energy technologies for the future."
As part of subsidiary Ameren Missouri's integrated resource plan, the company is seeking to retire its coal-fired Meramec Power Station in St. Louis and Sioux Power Station in West Alton, Missouri. Ameren is seeking permits for a series of projects aimed at winding down operations at the facilities, while complying with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) coal-combustion regulations. Projects scheduled to kick off over the next five years include:
- a fly-ash basin closure at Meramec; see project report
- a bottom-ash basin closure at Meramec; see project report
- a gypsum landfill closure at Sioux; see project report
- a fly-ash basin closure at Sioux; see project report
In addition to the above-mentioned capital-spending projects, Ameren is planning a series of maintenance-related projects at its fossil-fuel, nuclear and hydro plants over the next two years. Click here for a list.