ComEd has filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) its 10-year, $2.6 billion Infrastructure Investment Plan. It will invest $1.3 billion to strengthen the electric system and another $1.3 billion to add new, digital smart grid and advanced meter technology that will transform the delivery of electricity to homes and businesses throughout northern Illinois.
The filing also included the utility's $233 million Investment Plan for 2012 and its plan for a smart grid Test Bed to provide entrepreneurs "on-grid" locations for testing of smart grid-related technologies and services. Implementation of the investment program began this week. The installation of advanced meters in homes and businesses is slated to begin later this year, subject to approval of ComEd's Advanced Metering Infrastructure Deployment Plan (AMI Plan) by the ICC, and will continue through 2021. In the first five years of the program, ComEd will reinforce the electric system infrastructure to improve reliability and reduce the frequency and duration of power outages.
"The grid modernization law is a value promise made to Illinois consumers," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and COO, ComEd. "Our entire organization is now focused on kicking off the critical construction programs laid out in the legislation. It is a road map for improved system reliability, enhanced customer service and a 21st century electric distribution system that will support the digital economy and the greener economy of the future. We're excited to submit this filing today because it provides us with the opportunity to explain the details of the work we are performing to deliver added value to our customers."
ComEd's 2012 plan outlines $139 million in capital investments that will be dedicated to improving system reliability and $94 million in smart grid investments. The largest investments in reliability enhancements include refurbishment and replacement of underground residential distribution (URD) cable.
Upgrades also are being made to the utility's mainline underground system, which includes 8,300 miles of cable. ComEd considers the mainline cable program to be among the most complex initiatives as it involves several phases of work, including manhole assessment and cable testing, refurbishment and replacement. In 2012, ComEd will assess more than 4,000 of the 28,326 manholes in its system, replacing or conducting corrective maintenance of cable systems in the manholes and addressing other structural issues as required.
Significant investments also are aimed at a storm hardening program, which is designed to reduce the susceptibility of certain power line circuits to storm-related damage, including high winds, thunderstorms and ice storms. Power lines will be prioritized based on their historical susceptibility to storm-related damage and the ability to provide the greatest customer benefit. The 2012 reliability investments also include the inspection and any necessary treatment of approximately 133,400 wood utility poles.
Smart grid technologies
ComEd will begin the digital transformation of the electric infrastructure with the addition of advanced digital technologies to improve overall system reliability and performance. Major planned investments include the installation of advanced meters in homes and businesses beginning in the fourth quarter of 2012. ComEd expects to install 130,000 meters within the first year. Beginning in 2013, it will install an average of 440,000 meters annually through completion of the program.
Smart grid investments in 2012 also include the Distribution Automation (DA) program, through which ComEd will accelerate the installation of devices that will automatically re-route power around a problem, often with no noticeable interruption of service. The DA program also calls for the installation of a radio system to remotely transmit and relay control functions and provide system updates, as well as a computer system that will control, operate, monitor and store electrical distribution data.
Investments also include modernizing 10 electrical substations through which electric power flows to customers, as well as the installation of microprocessor relays that will improve the automated monitoring of substation performance. These upgrades will result in a range of customer benefits, including increased reliability and reduced power delivery expenses.
New training facilities also are on the agenda, including one in Rockford, currently scheduled to open in late 2012, and one on the southwest side of Chicago that will open in 2014. The training centers will play important roles in helping ComEd employees and new hires gain the advanced skills that will be needed to perform more complex work, including the installation and operation of smart grid technologies on the electrical system.
Test Bed to spur smart grid innovation
In accordance with the law, ComEd presented its plan to create and operate a smart grid "Test Bed" that will provide entrepreneurs with the opportunity to test a broad range of equipment, services, technologies and business models within a utility scale environment. ComEd is designating its Innovation Corridor as the Test Bed location. The ComEd Smart Grid Innovation Corridor was launched in 2010 in conjunction with the company's advanced meter pilot project. It provided a laboratory for evaluating new technologies and approaches, including ComEd's first intelligent substation, distribution automation technology and electric vehicle charging stations.
The Innovation Corridor consists of portions or all of nine municipalities, including Bellwood, Berwyn, Broadview, Forest Park, Hillside, Maywood, Melrose Park, Oak Park, River Forest and a portion of the City of Chicago, specifically the Humboldt Park area. With the exception of Humboldt Park, the Test Bed location encompasses a contiguous footprint that maintains demographic characteristics similar to the entire ComEd system in relation to its composition of residential, commercial and industrial customers.
"The innovation corridor has been extremely valuable in validating concepts, products and customer needs and interests factored into our grid modernization program, so it will provide a perfect platform for the testing of new concepts that our Test Bed applicants are working to bring to life," said Fidel Marquez, senior vice president of Customers Operations, ComEd.
The Test Bed will be operational by late April of this year.