PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) — Updates are coming to Ameren’s gas and electric delivery systems, but customers should not expect any major price hikes, Ameren Illinois’ communications director said on Monday.

In January, Ameren Illinois filed for a $160.4 million gas rate increase and a four-year $435.6 million electric rate increase to the Illinois Commerce Commission, a regulatory agency whose mission is to “balance the interests of consumers and utilities to ensure adequate, efficient, reliable, safe and least-cost public utility services, while promoting the development of an effectively competitive energy supplier market.”

“We’re really at the beginning stages, so this will kick off an 11-month process,” said Tucker Kennedy, communications director for Ameren Illinois. “So every single dollar that we propose will be reviewed by the Commerce Commission and open for review by others as well.”

Kennedy said the gas rate hike is to take care of the underground natural gas system to comply with federal safety requirements and to have a resilient natural gas system. The electric rate hike will strengthen the reliability and resiliency of the electric grid and prepare for the transition to clean energy.

“We’re going to see more instances where customers are generating their own power, serving their own power back under the grid,” said Kennedy. “So our energy grid has to be prepared to be able to handle those changes, and that we’re able to handle this adoption and we’re able to deliver that clean, reliable energy that our customers want.”

Advocacy group Citizens Utility Board (CUB) disagreed with the proposal, calling it “awful news for Ameren customers who already were suffering under some of the highest electric and gas supply prices in Illinois history as well as earlier Ameren rate hikes.”

“Electric and gas rate cases are often about the utility asking for an excessive profit rate for shareholders. CUB’s team will review these rate cases, challenge excessive profit rates, and work to reduce these rate hikes as much as possible,” the group said in a statement.

CUB said Ameren is asking for an “excessive” 10.5% profit rate for shareholders. They also referred to Ameren’s previous rate hikes. Ameren received $61 million in January 2023 and $57.6 million in January 2022 for electric rate hikes, and received $76 million in January 2021 for natural gas rate hikes.

“Nobody disagrees that the power grid should be properly maintained, but that doesn’t mean Ameren deserves a blank check,” they said.

Kennedy said if the Commerce Commission were to adopt their proposal as-is, customers could expect an increase of $6 per month starting in January 2024.

“These are necessary improvements,” said Kennedy. “They’re necessary upgrades and updates that are required to make sure that we have the most safe reliable, resilient energy delivery system that we can to meet the changing needs of our of our energy customers.”

Kennedy added not investing in the grid could result in dire consequences like service disruptions.

“Ultimately what our customers want is reliability,” Kennedy told WMBD. “They want the lights to go on. They want the power to be there when they flip that switch. And that’s really what this is about.”