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A major upgrade to Ameren Missouri's power grid should lead to fewer outages when severe storms impact the downtown Jefferson City area.

Ameren Missouri began construction last August on the Smart Grid, new underground equipment with smart technology. It was installed throughout downtown and creates "a self-healing grid that is designed to reduce outage times for some service disruptions from hours to seconds," said Ralph "Chip" Webb, division director of Central Missouri for Ameren Missouri.

Workers began installing new switchgear on Jackson Street in early August. The approximately 2,900-pound switchgear was a key part of the storm-hardening project.

Work on the $1.2 million project was completed in December.

Eight smart switchgears were installed as part of this project, Webb said during a news conference Monday.

"They work together to detect and isolate outages and re-route power," Webb noted. "In addition, fiberoptic cables were installed to allow streamlined communication with Ameren Missouri's network."

Among the businesses and government agencies company officials said are benefiting from these smart technology improvements are Jefferson City Hall and the Jefferson City Police Department, the Cole County Courthouse, the Cole County Sheriff's Department and Jail, the Missouri state Capitol, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and the Missouri Department of Revenue.

This project followed the May 22, 2019, tornado that hit Jefferson City.

Jefferson City Mayor Carrie Tergin thanked Ameren during Monday's news conference for the work the utility company did to restore service as quickly as possible after the storm. Tergin said city officials continue to work with state agencies on long-term planning for how to deal with disasters such as tornadoes and flooding.

The mayor encouraged people to practice their emergency plan during the annual statewide tornado drill, scheduled at 10 a.m. March 3. In case of inclement weather, the backup day for the drill is at 10 a.m. March 5.

Webb noted Hyder Apartments on Linden Drive could have seen its power restored faster after the tornado had the Smart Grid equipment been in place at the time. Because it is in place now, restoration should be much quicker if another storm hits.

"We recognize that the downtown area has seen some service interruptions and know that even short, intermittent outages can have an adverse effect on daily lives and local government and business operations," Webb said. "This project will transform the energy grid into a much more robust, smarter and secure system for families and businesses."

At the same time the company was making the downtown upgrades, Ameren Missouri upgraded its Fairgrounds substation with new energy delivery cables to provide improved customer reliability.

The Smart Energy Plan, announced in February 2019, is the largest infrastructure upgrade plan in Ameren Missouri's history and was made possible by the passage of Senate Bill 564 in 2018. Webb said Ameren made a $5.3 billion capital investment in more than 2,000 electric projects across Missouri. It also includes a $1 billion investment in wind generation to continue Ameren Missouri's transition to using cleaner, renewable energy sources, which will help to reduce carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

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