Solar panels atop Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.
Solar panels atop Chicago's Shedd Aquarium.

The New Energy Order - Chicago Style

Urban utility reimagines itself green

EDITOR'S NOTE: Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO, recently co-chaired The Energy Times executive conference, Empowering Customers & Cities. This is the second of a four-part series based on her opening keynote address. Next week: "The Electric Platform."

The reinvention of the electric power grid for Chicago and ComEd has already begun, thanks in no small part to the Smart Grid legislation that enabled ComEd to make a $2.6 billion investment to lay the foundation for a smart grid.

In the four years we’ve been working at this, we have replaced 3,700 miles of cable, rebuilt 26,000 manholes and installed 2,500 smart switches.  In the most visible development for most of our customers, we have installed almost 3 million smart meters – enabling ComEd to know when you’re out of power without calling us, locate system breakdowns more easily and provide customers with more information and control, to lower bills. 

nne Pramaggiore co-chaired The Energy Times' Empowering Customers & Cities event in early November.

Anne Pramaggiore co-chaired The Energy Times' Empowering Customers & Cities event in early November.


 The infrastructure improvements are exciting to us, our operators and engineers.  The impact is meaningful to our customers. 

With 43 percent fewer outages, ComEd has best on record performance.  This has produced more than $1.3 billion in benefits through reduced costs on bills by having fewer outages to chase and reduced costs off the bill – less spoiled food, higher business productivity.

So we’re reinventing our physical infrastructure to meet the needs of the digital world and at the same time, creating a roadmap to the next phase of energy reinvention – to smart we add clean and resilient.

With national energy policy in flux, states and localities, along with businesses, will be the first movers on clean policy and those that move the fastest and most effectively will reap significant benefits.

For the last two years, ComEd and Exelon Generation have worked with a number of stakeholders, including environmental groups, on new legislation that can cement Chicago and Illinois’ clean energy future. Discussions are ongoing, nothing is final, but the latest version looks like this:

It nearly doubles energy efficiency, creating $4 billion in energy savings.

It commits a billion dollars of funding for low-income assistance, mostly through energy efficiency. 

It introduces a Zero Emission Standard that will prevent the premature closing of two nuclear plants in Illinois; sustaining Illinois’ foundation of clean energy while jumpstarting solar renewables in Illinois, with rebates and significant new funding and support additional wind development.

And finally, it enhances the security and resiliency of the power grid, including through the building of five microgrids that can connect to the main grid or disconnect to keep power flowing in times of events like extreme weather or security emergencies.  These microgrids will protect critical infrastructure in the region, like first responder facilities, water pumping stations and medical centers.

So we’re working hard through the legislative process to add clean power to our ever smarter system while simultaneously adding the power of choice through distributed power and marketplace options.

That markets – lateral in scale and interaction -- are central in the new energy order is an emerging consensus.

READ MORE:

Anne Pramaggiore’s Energy Ecosystem


 

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