Illinois regulators on Tuesday rejected Ameren Illinois’ $625 million plan to deploy smart grid improvements in its service territory, saying the company not only failed to show it could deliver a cost benefit to customers, but that the deployment plan was “vague and incomplete” and bordered on being more a “general statement of intention to install smart meters in some parts of its service territory.”

Ameren Illinois had in March filed the infrastructure improvement and modernization initiative with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), a regulatory body that seeks to ensure reliable and cost-effective public utility services. Ameren had estimated that over 10 years, it would invest $258 million in system improvements and modernizations, as well as $169 million in automated intelligent switching devices, sensors and microprocessor-based relays, $174 million to install smart meters, and $7 million to develop a training center. The investment was permitted by the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, the company argued.

But the ICC’s five commissioners on Tuesday unanimously rejected Ameren’s plan, saying it did not comply with requirements of Section 16-108 (c) of the Public Utilities Act. That law requires Ameren to “prove that its Smart Grid Advanced Metering Infrastructure plan will be cost-beneficialthat is that the present value of the total benefits of the plan must exceed the present value of the total costs of the plan in order for the plan to be approved by the Commission.”

The law also requires that a smart grid deployment plan include a “vision statement consistent with developing a cost-beneficial Smart Grid; a description of how the utility will evaluate and prioritize technology choices to create customer value; a timetable for implementation and the locations of meter deployment; annual milestones and metrics for measuring the success of the AMI plan; and a plan for consumer education,” which Ameren hadn’t shown, the ICC said.

According to the ICC, the cost/benefit analysis presented by Ameren relied on “incomplete or speculative calculations and that regardless of those calculations.” Ameren Illinois’ AMI plan also reportedly relied on either including gas meters or a compliance period longer than the 10 years, “neither of which is allowed in the statute,” the commissioners ruled.

ICC Chairman Doug Scott said in a statement he was “troubled by the inadequacy of the plan,” a sentiment echoed by Commissioners John Colgan and Erin O’Connell-Diaz.

“I think we all look forward to reviewing a plan that meets the legislative directives,” O’Connell said. “That way the entire state will be on the modernization track as envisioned by the General Assembly when it passed the new law.”

A similar plan by ComEd has been filed with the ICC. A decision on that plan will be reached before June 22.

Sources: POWERnews, ICC