On Oct. 27, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, setting in motion a US$2.6 billion investment by ComEd to strengthen and modernize the state's electric grid. The groundbreaking legislation will create thousands of jobs, improve system reliability, provide new ways for consumers to save on their energy bills and establish the most progressive accountability-based regulatory model in the country.

Final approval came when the General Assembly overrode Gov. Quinn's veto of Senate Bill 1652. In the hours leading up to final vote, the General Assembly also passed a separate trailer bill introduced earlier in the week that added provisions toughening utility performance standards, lowering the allowed return on equity and establishing a fund to assist low-income customers, seniors and disabled veterans with their utility bills.

The final package authorizes implementation of a 10-year, $2.6 billion investment program by ComEd to strengthen the existing electric system, while adding new digital smart technology.

SB 1652 will put Illinois back to work with specific provisions that mandate more than 2,500 statewide jobs at the peak of the grid's build-out. The investment also will spur job growth in construction, cable and electric equipment manufacturing and other key traditional industries.

A smart grid will improve overall system reliability, reducing outages and improving power restoration while allowing consumers to save money through a set of new smart grid-related efficiencies. Smart meters will help consumers save on energy costs by providing options for new pricing plans, better managing energy use and becoming eligible for new rebates by reducing power usage in peak hours.

It also will contribute to a cleaner environment by increasing funding for energy-efficiency programs and encouraging greater use of solar and wind power. Development of the smart grid will allow for the intelligent charging stations needed to encourage greater use of electric vehicles.

Under the trailer bill, ComEd will provide $50 million and Ameren will provide $10 million in programs designed to help low-income families and seniors over the 10-year program laid out in SB 1652. This overall $60 million assistance fund is in addition to $50 million already designated in SB 1652 for education outreach to all residential energy consumers.

The trailer bill also redirected $200 million toward targeted “undergrounding” of overhead lines, tree-resistant overhead conductors and other storm-hardening solutions to strengthen the distribution system in the wake of the historic storm season of 2011. These solutions are in addition to the inspection and replacement of residential underground cable and mainline cable programs that are also a prominent piece of SB 1652.

For more information, visit www.comed.com.