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ComEd lobbies for smart grid funding to politicians and business leaders

ComEd President COO Anne Pramaggiore announces elements $1.1 bilielectric system infrastructure investment plan Robert W. GalvCenter campus IIT 10 W.

ComEd President and COO Anne Pramaggiore announces elements of a $1.1 bilion electric system infrastructure investment plan at the Robert W. Galvin Center on the campus of IIT, 10 W. 35th St. Wednesday, January 4, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: December 14, 2012 6:18AM



Commonwealth Edison will seek “all paths to resolution,” including a possible return to the Illinois General Assembly, to restore $100 million in yearly revenue the utility says it lacks to build the smart grid because of a regulatory ruling, ComEd Anne Pramaggiore said Monday.

The shortfall results from an Illinois Commerce Commission vote on Oct. 3 to deny both interest rate costs and a rate base calculation that ComEd wanted to recover the smart grid’s costs.

Pramaggiore said after a speech to the City Club of Chicago that she hopes the Illinois Commerce Commission will move to resolve the dispute at its meeting in December.

“We’re talking to everyone, exploring paths,” she said. “We’re not foreclosing any options. We want to do this in the most efficient way we can.”

Asked when ComEd would ask the Legislature to act if the ICC doesn’t change its ruling, she said there is no set timetable.

“There are a lot of moving parts,” she said.

ComEd said after the ICC vote that it would delay until 2015 installing more smart meters if it doesn’t recoup the cost of the project. About 130,000 smart meters are operating as part of a pilot program.ComEd workers also monitor in real time a “smart” substation that ComEd has built in Oak Park as part of the smart grid project. They can see immediately if anything is amiss.

The Legislature approved ComEd’s $2.6 billion, 10-year smart grid program with the intent that ComEd would recover its costs, Pramaggiore told the public policy luncheon at Maggiano’s restaurant in River North. The legislation passed after the Senate and House in January overrode Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of what Quinn called an unfair setup in which ComEd would get guaranteed yearly rate increases for each of the next 10 years. ComEd countered that the measure makes it the only utility in the United States to be held to performance standards with financial penalties if it fails to achieve them.

State Sen. Kyle McCarter, R-Lebanon, who was critical of the smart-grid bill for “breezing” through the Senate Energy Committee with no extensive hearing, said Monday he would be willing to hear ComEd’s appeal — as long as the issue had full hearings.

“If [ComEd], like any other utility, feels they have not been treated fairly as far as recapturing their costs, I’m sure willing to listen,” said McCarter, who got into a well publicized argument by criticizing the Energy Committee chairman for being the son of a ComEd lobbyist. “I’d want to have a full hearing on both sides, the House and the Senate.”

Pramaggiore showed slides at her City Club appearance that enabled the audience to see the way new technology lets Commonwealth Edison watch in real time as a storm rolls through the Chicago area, and pinpoint in areas with “smart meters” where crews need to be deployed. Their map is aligned with Google Earth.

The meters, shown in green as working, quickly flashed red as the storm passed. Most returned to green as the smart grid realized the distress, but red spots flashed the outages.

She said 70,000 power outages have been averted this year because ComEd’s 380 new smart switches intelligently rerouted the electricity.

Pramaggiore said ComEd has, in 10 months, replaced 361 miles of underground lines, 2,300 utility poles and added 30 miles of tree resistant systems.

And she touted the 400 jobs the smart grid work has created in the past 10 months, counting ComEd and its contractors.



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