ComEd submitted a progress report to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) showing the installation of 470 Distribution Automation devices in the Chicago area in the first year of the smart grid program.
Under the smart grid law enacted in 2011, ComEd committed to spend $2.6 billion over 10 years to strengthen and modernize the electric grid in northern Illinois. More than $1.3 billion is earmarked to deploy a Smart Grid system and install smart meters in four million homes and businesses to give customers more control over their energy consumption and costs. The current schedule calls for ComEd to begin installing smart meters in 2015. However, the General Assembly passed legislation last month that would accelerate installation to begin later this year if Gov. Pat Quinn enacts the measure during the spring legislative session.
The progress report filed with the ICC summarizes ComEd’s activities and achievements in 2012 and goals for 2013 in several areas, including Distribution Automation, which routes power around potential problem areas, often with no noticeable interruption in service.
Installation of these devices resulted in 82,000 fewer customer power interruptions in 2012. During the severe storms that hit the Chicago area in mid-April, the devices prevented 20,000 service interruptions.
By remotely monitoring and controlling grid operations, Distribution Automation devices, or smart switches, are a central feature of smart grid technology and ComEd’s effort to reduce the frequency and duration of outages.
Over the course of the 10-year grid modernization program, ComEd is increasing the number of customers served by smart switches from 55 percent to nearly 90 percent. The utility invested a total of $32 million in the installations in 2012 and is increasing the investment to over $44 million this year.
With distribution automation, if a tree were to fall on a utility pole resulting in an interruption, far fewer customers would be impacted because the smart switches better isolate the damaged section. When fully implemented, distribution automation and smart meters will communicate with ComEd’s operations center, alerting the utility of an outage and eliminating the need for customers to call to report they are out of power. Smart meters will enable the utility to know as soon as power has been restored.
Separately, the Building Owners and Managers Association in Chicago (BOMA) is spearheading a smart meter pilot program, and up to 40 BOMA/Chicago member buildings in downtown Chicago will be able to participate when the pilot begins later in this year. BOMA initiated the smart meter project so that buildings can aggregate their energy information to be able to participate in some sophisticated demand response programs through the PJM Interconnection, the regional transmission organization.
Ron Tabaczynski, BOMA/Chicago director of government affairs said the smart meter project with the downtown buildings is not related to ComEd’s work to build a smart grid.