This summer’s record setting severe weather has highlighted the important of establishing a smart grid and its associated technologies. For example, a July 11 windstorm, the largest in the utility’s history, cut power to more than 900,000 customers and cost $80 million. ComEd officials maintain smarter power will result in power outages, quicker restoration times, and better communication.
ComEd has been criticized by municipal leaders, customers, and lawmakers because of multiple power outages, some lasting for several days, occurring during the 10 significant storms that have hit this summer. The July 11 storm produced 18,000 lightning strikes and hurricane force winds of 80 mph.
ComEd president and chief operating officer Anne Pramaggiore says, “This has been a summer unlike any other we’ve encountered at ComEd. The weather has put unprecedented stress on our electric grid.”
Pramaggiore, who also stressed the need for technology and service upgrades, made her comments prior to a hearing by the public utilities committee, called for the hearing in light of repeated and widespread power losses.
During the storms, six hundred communities were affected, and 100 of them had 75 percent or more of its customers without power. Fifty local contractors and 400 crews from 14 states were called to assist with repairs, in effect doubling ComEd’s workforce. During the worst o the outages, 5,000 employees were working 16-hour shifts.
Pramaggiore says upgraded technology would have resulted in 180,000 fewer outages from the July 11 storm and reduced repair time through the use of smart meters that pinpoint outages without customers having to call.
The legislation that authorizes the smart grid program is currently long with rate increases, is awaiting Illinois Governor Pat Quinn’s signature. The 10-year program calls for a $2.6 billion investment. Pramaggiore explained that the bill includes performance standards that if not met could cost ComEd tens of millions of dollars in a given year and includes rebate pricing for customers with smart meters.
State Rep. and member of the PUC says, “They have been listening, but so far we haven’t heard any action plans. I’m looking for action now. We will see what they tell us.”