Appearing today before a House Public Utilities hearing in Highland Park, Illinois, ComEd President and Chief Operating Officer Anne Pramaggiore and other members of ComEd's executive team highlighted lessons learned from the utility's summer storm restoration efforts and the steps it is taking to enhance its storm response, noting that essential electric grid modernization will be needed to meet the increasing needs of customers.
"Our crews did an outstanding job restoring customers' power this summer under extremely difficult conditions but these storms have brought two major issues to the forefront," said Pramaggiore. "We need to enhance our storm response performance, as well as make the investment in the tools and technologies that the electric grid requires to operate at peak effectiveness."
Tuesday's hearing was called by state legislators to address power outages caused by these storms. Pramaggiore began her testimony by acknowledging: "A power outage of any length is an enormous disruption. We have heard from our customers and know that many were disappointed during the storms this summer. We accept of the challenge to improve and have identified several immediate and long-term solutions."
The day's testimony included remarks from David Owens, executive director of Edison Electric Institute, regarding ComEd's 2011 storm response efforts and how it compared to other utilities' responses to storms of similar scope.
"Ten major storms this summer in such close succession, including the July 11 storm that affected nearly a million customers, is unprecedented," Owens said. "Taken in isolation, each storm response effort compares favorably to industry measures. Viewed as a group, ComEd's response given the extraordinary circumstances it was confronting was highly responsive."
ComEd executives detailed several ways to enhance the utility's response to extraordinary storms. For long-term reliability improvements, Pramaggiore reminded the committee that the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act will allow ComEd to invest $2.6 billion over 10 years – above what the utility has already budgeted to maintain the system. The investment would create 2,000 jobs at its peak and fall into three categories:
- Network Modernization: $1.1 billion to modernize and refurbish ComEd's network and equipment to reduce outages.
- Smart Grid: $1.5 billion investment in Smart Grid technology to create a two-way communications network, providing better information for customers to help them manage their electricity usage.
- Employee Training and Smart Grid Export: Two new skills training centers in the ComEd service territory and the promotion of Smart Grid manufacturers and deployment companies to locate in Illinois, creating even more jobs throughout the state as the industry expands.
"If digital automation was in place this summer thousands of customers may have never experienced an outage" said Terry Donnelly, executive vice president, Operations, ComEd. "With the June 21 storm, we estimate that 100,000 customers would have never experienced an outage and with the July 11 storm, we estimate that approximately 175,000 customers would have never experienced an outage."