Appearing this week before the House Public Utilities Committee, ComEd President and Chief Operating Officer Anne Pramaggiore, along with a number of Illinois business owners, testified about the broad range of economic benefits that would result from the passage of the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (HB 14). ComEd has said the legislation would enable the investment of $2.6 billion in infrastructure upgrades over the next 10 years. This was the second in a series of public hearings on the legislation and focused primarily on the economic benefits of grid modernization.
"House Bill 14 is a roadmap for economic growth for our state," said Pramaggiore. "It is good public policy in light of Illinois' economic challenges; not in spite of Illinois' economic challenges. It's an investment tool to help get Illinois moving again – not a program to be put aside until Illinois gets moving again."
Pramaggiore testified that the benefits to Illinois are four-fold. They include an immediate economic jolt to the Illinois economy; improved reliability, customer service and smarter energy management tools; more efficient and effective utilities, and Illinois' long-term economic competitiveness.
It's the shot in the arm that Illinois businesses like G&W Electric Company, a designer and manufacturer of switchgear and cable accessories products, need to thrive and grow.
"We strongly feel that Illinois must not fall behind. Illinois has a strong manufacturing base that we need to preserve and grow," said Jim Solari, president, G&W Electric Company. "According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Illinois has the fourth highest number of manufacturing jobs of any state. Reliable power is critical to retaining those valuable jobs."
Solari said improvements to the power grid give his company more opportunity to compete, benefitting its employees, local suppliers and the local economy.
As Pramaggiore has previously said, the stability and predictability of a new regulatory model is necessary to ensure proper planning and execution of the projects funded with that investment.
"Grid modernization can't happen without House Bill 14," she said. "ComEd simply can't make investment without the stability and predictability embodied in the regulatory reform section of the bill and without that, we will continue to see programs start up and shut down as rate case outcomes change from case to case."
This point was driven home by Matthew Turk, executive vice president, Intren, a Union, Illinois-based, woman-owned business that provides building and maintenance services for overhead power lines and trenching services for underground lines. He said the existing regulatory process has negatively impacted Intren, their union workforce and Illinois residents.
"As rate cases were successful, ComEd could proceed with system upgrades and contracts were awarded. When cases were not successful or reversed, work had to stop and contractors were laid off. This has occurred repeatedly in Illinois bringing hardship to Illinois workers and their families," said Turk.
Jay Marhoefer, founder and CEO of Intelligent Generation, a clean energy technology company highlighted the need to invest in the right infrastructure in order to create a clean energy infrastructure that will endure for generations.
"The simple truth is that the electric grid of Edison and Insull wasn't built for renewable energy," said Marhoefer. "It was built for one-way flow of electricity with controllable assets like power plants, not for two-way flow with distributed assets like solar panels and wind turbines. If we want to incorporate clean power into the grid, then we have to make the grid more intelligent."
Marhoefer stressed that without the right smart grid infrastructure and investment all the innovation that comes out of great Illinois places like Argonne and universities like Illinois, IIT, Chicago and Northwestern and, ultimately, the jobs, will go somewhere else.