Ameren Illinois announced Wednesday it is upgrading more than 44,500 electric and natural gas meters for residential customers in and around the greater Pekin area in an effort to provide more reliable service and to create jobs. 

The power company’s multi-year plan focused on central and southern Illinois.

“We’re in the last year of a five-year project that began in June 2014, to upgrade the infrastructure that supports our metering,” said Ameren Illinois spokeswoman Victoria Busch. “The Pekin area was on the tail end of our deployment (of upgraded meters) because we did the most rural areas first. Those communities had no advanced metering. Pekin and other communities around there already have some degree of advanced metering.”

The greater Pekin area have one-way, automated meter reading capability, Busch said. The upgraded infrastructure will provide two-way communication between Ameren Illinois and the new meters. Two-way communication will allow customers to better monitor and manage their energy usage and will also improve Ameren’s operational efficiency.

“This advanced technology will provide our customers with access to more choices for pricing options and energy efficiency tools to help them manage their energy usage and better control their costs,” Daetta Jones, division director for Ameren Illinois, said in a press release announcing the upgrades. “It will also enable us to more quickly detect system disruptions, prevent outages, and restore service.”

Electric and natural gas meter upgrades in Pekin, Bartonville, Delavan, Glasford, Green Valley, Groveland, Kingston Mines, Manito, Mapleton, South Pekin and Tremont are expected to begin at the end of January and will continue into this summer, Busch said.

“It’s dependent on the weather as to when we start,” she said. “But our goal is to start at the end of the month.”

The meter upgrades have created jobs by allowing Ameren Illinois to hire about 1,400 contractors, technical support and training personnel.

“The job openings kind of run the gamut,” said Busch. “We’ve created a position we call a meter specialist who service the new meters and do any maintenance they might need over time.”

Ameren Illinois will contact customers before making the meter upgrades, said Jones. Customers do not need to take any action or be present but must provide installers clear and safe access to the meters. The upgrades will take about 10 to 15 minutes and will be performed by Ameren Illinois or Donco Electrical contracting crews displaying Ameren photo-ID badges. Installers will never ask for payment of any kind. There will be a brief interruption to a customer’s electric service. If a customer is not present, a door hanger will be left to let them know that the upgrade was completed.

“We are committed to keeping our customers informed about how we are investing to upgrade their service,” Jones said. “Smart meters contribute to greater service reliability and offer more customer benefits. Enhancing reliability and providing access to energy information is going to continue to deliver energy and cost-saving advantages for our customers in the future.”

Ameren Illinois delivers energy to 1.2 million electric and 816,000 natural gas customers throughout central and southern Illinois. The company’s service territory covers more than 1,200 communities and 43,700 square miles. Since 2012, Ameren Illinois has implemented hundreds of system reliability projects by adding new technology and fortifying the energy grid, said Jones. As a result, reliability has improved by an average of 19 percent, saving Ameren Illinois customers an estimated $45 million a year. 

Customers with questions can visit or call Ameren Illinois Customer Service at 1-800-755-5000.