ComEd fast-tracks the smart grid in Illinois

In a victory for Illinois residents and the environment, Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) recently formally proposed to the Illinois Commerce Commission an accelerated timetable for completing its deployment of 4 million smart meters. ComEd began installing smart meters last fall as part of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act of 2011. With this proposal, the Illinois utility will complete its meter installation nearly five years earlier than planned.

Modern, smart electricity meters are a key component of the smart grid. These devices help eliminate huge waste in the energy system, reduce overall and peak energy demand and spur the adoption of clean, low-carbon energy resources, including wind and solar power. By enabling two-way, real-time communication, smart meters give everyday energy users, small businesses, manufacturers and farmers (and the electricity providers that serve them) the information they need to control their own energy use and reduce their electricity costs.

"Faster deployment of the smart grid makes economic sense for Illinois consumers," said David Kolata, Citizen's Utility Board's executive director. "Not only will it lower overall implementation costs through economies of scale, but it will also allow consumers to more quickly access smart grid benefits, including improved reliability, better energy efficiency and new, money-saving power pricing programs."

Critical work, however, lies ahead. For instance, EDF has negotiated with ComEd a set of 20 metrics that will be used to evaluate the consumer, economic and environmental benefits associated with the smart grid. This will help ensure that the deployment of this new technology benefits more than the utility's bottom line. As the saying goes, what gets measured gets done.

We also are working to set standards for providing customers with their energy use data as close to real time as possible so that they can become more active participants in their own energy consumption. Additionally, EDF and our Illinois partners are pushing to advance dynamic pricing adoption, through more sophisticated electricity pricing structures based on the time electricity is used. Such pricing alternatives could help Illinois customers reduce their energy use during periods when costs — and environmental impacts — are high.

"New technologies and business models are emerging every day to enable residents to conserve electricity, save money and reduce pollution," said Andrew Barbeau, president of The Accelerate Group, who is working with EDF in Illinois to advance effective smart grid implementation. "Achieving a critical mass of customers with meters sooner will enable Illinois to be a leader of the pack in implementing solutions for smart and connected homes and communities."

The speed-up still needs to be approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, but it is an important first step in what EDF sees as a path toward a smarter, cleaner and healthier energy system for all Illinoisans. Stay tuned.

This article originally appeared at the EDF Energy Exchange. Power meter image by LeahKat via Shutterstock.