ComEd reports that work directly related to the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) enacted last year created more than 700 jobs from January through September 2012, with more than 100 jobs created in the third quarter alone. These include jobs at ComEd as well as contractor and supplier positions involving a broad range of functions required to build a 21st century electric grid, from construction and engineering to consulting and administration.
"Creating the energy infrastructure of tomorrow is putting hundreds of people to work today in good-paying jobs," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd. "It gives us great pride to be able to contribute to the Illinois economy and improve the reliability of our electric grid, which helps promote business growth and development in our state."
With passage of EIMA, ComEd embarked on a 10-year, $2.6 billion program to modernize the power system in northern Illinois. The EIMA investments also have provided an important boost to local manufacturers, suppliers and service providers with the expertise needed to support the electrical system upgrade. Through October 2012, ComEd has awarded $80 million in contracts to companies providing services and products ranging from engineering to cable to smart switches.
"The grid modernization program has allowed us to create new jobs that otherwise wouldn't have existed," said Loretta Rosenmayer, founder and CEO of INTREN, a firm that is assisting ComEd with cable replacement work, storm hardening and pole replacement.
INTREN is one of several Illinois firms partnering with ComEd to bring grid modernization benefits to ComEd customers. Other firms include Meade Electric, S&C Electric, G&W Electric, Aldridge Electric and General Cable. Growing Chicago-based firms, such as PMI Energy Solutions, Primera, and MZI Group, also are realizing new opportunities through the grid modernization effort. Choctaw-Kaul, a Native American-owned distributor of safety products, recently opened a new distribution center near Midway airport as a result of the EIMA program.
ComEd's grid modernization program hit the ground running in January, with ComEd working at an accelerated pace that is already bringing benefits to customers throughout northern Illinois. Major EIMA accomplishments in 2012 to date that are improving reliability for customers include:
- Installing approximately 380 distribution automation devices, or "smart switches," which have prevented 70,000 power outages this year.
- Replacing or refurbishing more than 360 miles of underground residential cable – double the pace of any previous year.
- Replacing approximately 32 miles of mainline cable this year – nearly three times the annual average – for a total of 44 miles by year-end.
- Repairing or replacing more than 2,300 utility poles – more than 75 percent above average – for a total of 2,500 by year-end.
- Assessing 6,850 manholes and refurbishing 3,800.
While grid modernization work continues, the pace is slowing from earlier this year as a result of a ruling by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that reduced the funding available for the program. Following this ruling in May, the company sought rehearing on 13 issues, and the three largest were reconsidered in rehearing. Only one of these decisions was reversed by the ICC when it ruled on the rehearing Oct. 3. As a result, ComEd will face a reduction in funding of nearly $100 million per year in 2014 and beyond. These dollars cannot be recovered and subsequently reinvested into the system. ComEd has appealed the decision in court. In the meantime, ComEd is proceeding with about 75 percent of the core grid modernization programs as planned, while postponing the deployment of additional smart meters until 2015.
"We were able to make significant progress on our grid modernization so far this year because, under the EIMA legislation, we were assured that our investments in the system would be fully recovered," said Pramaggiore, who became CEO in February of this year. "We hope to reach a positive outcome soon so that we can deliver the promised reliability improvements, cost-savings and customer service benefits to our customers and create 2,000 jobs as required by the legislation and further boost the Illinois economy."