Yesterday, the Illinois House Public Utilities Committee passed House Bill 2529 by a vote of 21 to 0. The legislation clarifies existing language in the Smart Grid law enacted in 2011 to get Illinois' electric grid modernization efforts back on track, and ensures the state's economy and consumers reap the full benefits of improved reliability, job creation and investment in the state's infrastructure, while maintaining strong consumer protections. The vote comes after the Senate Executive Committee's 14-0 passage of Senate Bill 9 last month.
"The passage of HB 2529 by the House Public Utilities Committee is a positive development for ComEd customers and the entire state of Illinois," said Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO. "We are grateful to Representative Lou Lang for leading efforts to make grid modernization a priority in the House. This legislation will help ComEd build a modern grid to reduce power outages, give customers more choice and control over their energy use, and create thousands of much-needed jobs."
Under the Smart Grid law, ComEd committed to spend $2.6 billion over 10 years to modernize the electric grid in Northern Illinois. In its first Smart Grid law rate case, the ICC's interpretation of the law reduced funding by nearly $100 million per year beginning in 2014 and beyond. This funding is essential to investing in the modernization program required by law. As a result, ComEd had to postpone deployment of key initiatives, including the installation of smart meters, until 2015. However, if HB 2529 is enacted this Spring session, ComEd will be able to accelerate its meter installations to begin in 2013.
"House Bill 2529 will give the Illinois economy a boost, provide better service for customers, and maintain our state's competitiveness in the new digital economy," said Representative Lou Lang, who sponsored the bill. "This legislation resolves the issues that have threatened to delay Smart Grid. It's time to get it back on track."
Despite the regulatory challenges, last year ComEd's $165 million in grid modernization efforts created more than 700 jobs. The utility also built a new, state-of-the-art training center in Rockford, enhanced storm-hardening to minimize storm-related outages, and installed over 470 smart switches, devices that re-route power in the event of a fault, avoiding 82,000 customer outages in 2012. Ultimately, ComEd's modernization efforts are designed to reduce outages by 700,000 per year, saving customers an estimated $100 million in outage-related costs.
"We enthusiastically support this legislation and the thousands of badly needed jobs in Illinois it will help create and protect," said Dean Apple, president and business manager of IBEW Local 15. "To remain competitive and attract the workforce of tomorrow, Illinois regulators and elected officials must support policies that attract smart grid investments for the 21st century economy."