After five years and billions of dollars of investment, Illinois is starting to reap the rewards of a smart grid buildout that has delivered a more reliable electricity system while holding average customer bills steady, Midwest Energy News reports.
The smart grid program has “led to best reliability on record, with the fewest and shortest power outages ever experienced by ComEd customers,” the utility’s president and CEO, Anne Pramaggiore, said in a statement. The initiative has also “supported thousands of jobs and development in our communities. It has laid the foundation and set Illinois on a path to a smart, lean, custom, and reliable energy future.”
ComEd says the program has delivered US$1.4 billion in societal savings and avoided 7.6 million customer interruptions.
“The utility industry is old, and in some cases there was older infrastructure in the field,” said ComEd Vice President of Distribution Isaac Akridge. “When technology became available, it was an opportunity to see how we could leverage and modernize our grid to improve the service we provide to our customers.”
Illinois’ grid modernization effort began in 2011, with legislation that required the state’s two largest utilities, ComEd and Ameren, as well as its rural electricity co-ops, to upgrade their aging transmission infrastructure. Since then, the utilities “have installed millions of smart electric meters, deployed thousands of intelligent power switching devices, launched a handful of new pricing programs, and dipped their toes into other emerging energy systems and technologies,” MWEN notes.
Apart from scattered concerns about costs and customer privacy—and alt-news-type worries about health impacts of smart meters—“the smart grid buildout has been largely free of controversy,” writes correspondent David J. Ungar.
“Illinois has had a good track record of dealing with these issues professionally and making progress,” said ratepayer advocate David Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board. “There are things that we wish obviously would be changed, but when you compare where we were in the late ’80s into the early and mid-’90s to where we are now, it’s an unqualified success, even though it’s not perfect.”