Commonwealth Edison, an Illinois public utility, announced that it is working with state policymakers, other Illinois public utilities, and stakeholders on a plan to upgrade the state’s aging electric grid in order to make it more energy-efficient, reliable, and competitive, as well as more compatible with the nation’s modern economy.
A “grid of the future” could encourage economic development and help “jumpstart” the state’s struggling economy by creating jobs and attracting and retaining Illinois-based businesses, ComEd said in a statement.
“Sweeping advancements in the way electricity is delivered and used are occurring across the country and it's critical to Illinois’ economic competitiveness that we have an electric system to support the emerging economy,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and chief operating officer of ComEd.
Economy Depends on Modern, Reliable, Electric Grid
“System modernization will facilitate the growth and expansion of existing businesses within Illinois, attract new and out-of-state businesses and provide customers more control over their electric bills,” Pramaggiore said.
Although many residential and commercial electricity customers in Illinois already have a measure of control over their electric bills — the state has undergone deregulation and electric providers are allowed to compete for residential and commercial business — Pramaggiore suggested that maintaining competitive prices will depend as much on technology as on policy.
“Uncertain reimbursement for costs is eroding utilities’ ability to fund long-term projects,” said Pramaggiore. “The policy proposal we are discussing with policymakers and stakeholders would enable us to invest in technology solutions that avoid outages, while keeping customers’ rates comparable to other major metropolitan utilities.”
Furthermore, ComEd said that staying with the current grid, which has reliability issues, is a recipe for failure. The utility cited a one-hour power outage in 2000 that hit the Chicago Board of Trade and resulted in $20 trillion in delayed trades, as well as Department of Commerce statistics that revealed a 14 percent increase in e-commerce transactions during the third quarter of 2010, to $39 billion, compared to the same quarter in 2009.
“Today’s economy requires 24-hour nonstop communications and vast transfers of electronic data — all dependent on a reliable grid,” ComEd said. “Now more than ever, uninterrupted electricity supply is a paramount concern for all businesses,” including e-commerce giants such as Groupon, Amazon, and eBay.
Energy Company Proposal a ‘Win for Everyone’
According to ComEd, modernizing the state’s electric grid demands a policy-based approach that includes programs to invest in infrastructure as well as regulatory reform to support those investments. The utility noted that such a proposal would need to be agreed upon by key stakeholders and approved by the state’s General Assembly before it could be enacted.
One such Assembly member, Rep. Kevin A. McCarthy, is already firmly behind the proposal, saying that now is “the right time to decide the right way to modernize a major part of Illinois' infrastructure.”
“Similar to how we facilitated the rapid technology boom in the telecom industry and brought countless advantages to customers, we can manage infrastructure investment and keep necessary consumer protections in place while unleashing the full resources needed to make Illinois an economic hub,” McCarthy said.
“This would be a win for everyone, and it is the kind of innovative public policy action our state needs right now.”
“ComEd, Other Stakeholders Developing Proposal to Modernize Illinois' Electric Grid,” ComEd press release, Jan. 14, 2011.