ComEd submitted this month to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) a progress report showing major accomplishments in the first year of the smart grid program, including the installation of 470 distribution automation devices. Distribution automation routes power around potential problem areas, often with no noticeable interruption in service. Installation of these devices resulted in 82,000 fewer customer power interruptions in 2012. During the severe storms that hit the Chicago area in mid-April, DA devices prevented 20,000 service interruptions.
By remotely monitoring and controlling grid operations, Distribution Automation (DA) devices, or smart switches, are a central feature of smart grid technology and ComEd's effort to reduce the frequency and duration of outages.
Working at an accelerated pace in 2012 as a result of the smart grid law enacted in 2011, ComEd installed more than 470 DA devices. Over the course of the 10-year grid modernization program, ComEd is increasing the number of customers served by DA from 55 to nearly 90 percent. The utility invested a total of $32 million in the installation of DA in 2012 and is increasing the investment to over $44 million this year.
"Just as today's smart phone technology merged the power of computers with cellular phones, smart grid technology merges the power of computers with the electric grid," said Mike McMahan, vice president of smart grid and technology, ComEd.
"With distribution automation, if a tree were to fall on a utility pole resulting in an interruption, far fewer customers would be impacted because it enables us to better isolate the damaged section," explained McMahan. "DA introduces a self-healing capability to the electric grid by allowing us to resolve issues before customers might even be aware of them, and that has a profoundly positive impact on people's daily lives."
When fully implemented, distribution automation and smart meters will communicate with ComEd's operations center, alerting the utility of an outage and eliminating the need for customers to call to report they are out of power. Smart meters will enable the utility to know as soon as power has been restored. When DA is on a system serving homes with smart meters, the utility can more efficiently dispatch personnel to the appropriate locations to accelerate restoration.
Under the smart grid law, ComEd committed to spend $2.6 billion over 10 years to strengthen and modernize the electric grid in northern Illinois. More than $1.3 billion is earmarked to deploy a Smart Grid system and install smart meters in four million homes and businesses to give customers greater control over their energy consumption and costs. The current schedule calls for ComEd to begin installing smart meters in 2015. However, the General Assembly passed legislation last month that would accelerate installation to begin later this year if Gov. Pat Quinn enacts the measure during the spring legislative session.
The progress report filed with the ICC summarizes ComEd's activities and achievements in 2012 and goals for 2013 in several areas, including smart meter deployment, customer applications, customer outreach and education, metrics and milestones.