ICC head says Ameren's performance was a marked improvement from recovery efforts after an ice and snow storm last year. .
The head of the Ameren Illinois utilities told the Illinois Commerce Commission on Tuesday that his company turned in "a solid performance" while restoring electricity to thousands of customers after an Aug. 23 storm struck Galesburg and other areas.
Charles Box, chairman of the state’s utility-regulating panel, apparently agreed. He congratulated Ameren Illinois President and CEO Scott Cisel for the company’s response.
"It’s a lot different than it was last November," Box said at the conclusion of a meeting in which Ameren officials and the ICC discussed the utility’s recent storm-recovery efforts.
Box’s remark referred to an ice and snow storm on Nov. 30 and Dec. 1, 2006, that knocked out electricity to hundreds of thousands of Ameren customers, many of them in central Illinois. Some of those power outages lasted for days.
As a result, Ameren was criticized for what some people viewed as a sluggish response to the massive outages. The ICC and state lawmakers conducted hearings to examine the company’s storm response.
Ameren responded to the criticism by pledging to do better in the future.
After Tuesday’s ICC meeting, Cisel said: "We learned from our other outage performances. We assembled crews much quicker, had more people answer phone calls and were engaged directly with the media early on to let them know of our efforts."
More than 700 Ameren workers were involved with the power-restoration efforts.
Ameren officials were "more proactive" and more specific than in the past when it came to providing customers with estimates about how long it would take to restore their power, said Ron Pate, a vice president of regional operations for Ameren.
The Aug. 23 storm was quick and powerful, traveling about 60 miles in an hour and triggering winds of 75 mph to 80 mph at the Galesburg airport, Pate said. A "microburst" in the city of Galesburg produced winds estimated at 100 mph, he added.
The storm hammered Knox, Warren and LaSalle counties, bringing down trees and power lines. The historic Old Main building at Knox College, site of one of the Lincoln-Douglas debates of 1858, sustained roof damage.
Storm-related power outages reached a peak about 5 p.m. Aug. 23, when more than 30,000 customers of AmerenIP and AmerenCILCO were left without electricity, Ameren officials said. Power was restored to nearly all of them by about 5 p.m. on Aug. 25.
There still is room for further improvement, Cisel said of his company’s performance.
"We need to look at ways of processing outage information quicker and more effectively than what we’ve been currently doing," Cisel said, adding that crews then could be dispatched more efficiently to outage areas.
Reach Adriana Colindres at (217) 782-6292 or email@example.com.