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ComEd chief lobbies for smart grid funding

Updated: December 14, 2012 6:19AM

CHICAGO — ComEd 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 CEO Anne Pramaggiore said Monday.

The shortfall results from an Illinois Commerce Commission vote 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 ICC 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.

The Legislature approved ComEd’s $2.6 billion, 10-year smart grid program with the intent that ComEd would recover its costs, Pramaggiore said at the public policy luncheon.

Pramaggiore showed slides that let City Club members watch 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.

ComEd workers also monitor in real time a “smart” substation that ComEd has built as part of the smart grid project. They can see immediately if anything is amiss.

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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