Being without electricity for any reason can quickly complicate daily routines and business activities when so much of what we do relies on a steady flow of power. And when ice storms result in downed lines, most affected homes are out of heat too, adding to the misery.
Ameren Corp., the utility company whose subsidiaries serve much of eastern Missouri and Illinois, has beefed up its tree-trimming program as a preventive measure to reduce outages caused by falling limbs. But it's a daunting task. Ameren has more than 33,000 miles of power lines in Missouri alone. The company has a four-year trimming cycle in urban areas and a six-year cycle in rural areas. This year the company will spend $45 million for its tree-trimming program, about a third more than 2006.
While the company would like to add more underground lines, cost is a major factor. It is about 10 times more expensive to install underground utilities, and finding problems along buried lines can be difficult.
While some Ameren customers complain about limbs being cut from trees near power lines, most agree that taking action to prevent future outages is a good thing.
One way customers can help is by choosing carefully where they plant trees. Even trees some distance from lines can be a problem if they are blown over in windstorms. Ameren's Web site (www.ameren.com/Environment/ADC_EV_TreePl...) offers guidelines for selecting tree-planting locations when power lines are nearby.
Every effort -- Ameren's tree-trimming program and customers' prudence when planting trees -- helps ensure good services year-round.