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"Smart" Meter Rollout At Halfway Mark; ComEd To Take Another Swipe

Commonwealth Edison's CEO says the utility is continuing to push for changes that failed to win legislative approval in the spring.

Anne Pramaggiore told an audience at the City Club of Chicago Monday that a 2011 so-called "smart grid" law has led to savings and a more reliable power network. The controversial law passed hiked the price for the delivery of electricity; Ameren and ComEd were to use the money for infrastructure upgrades, like the installation of so-called "smart meters,"  digital devices that measure electricity use, and send that information back to the utilities.

"And I think the biggest boon for these smart meters is just the access they give customers to information and control and pricing programs," Pramaggiore said.

She says so far ComEd company has put in about 2 million smart meters throughout its norhtern Illinois territory; when all is said and done, that number will nearly double.

"In some cases we can pinpoint damage on the system, without having to send people out to figure out what's going on," she said, which means ComEd can respond faster to power outages.

She says they can save consumers money. "When you get a smart meter, you also get the opportunityt to join a rebate pricing program," she said.

But some residents think the "smart" meters are just the opposite, and have rejected them. Critics cite studies questioning the supposed savings, and raise health and privacy concerns.

Pramaggiore said further improvements to the electricity network, like microgrids that can keep power flowing when there's an outage and charging stations for electric cars, depends on help from Springfield. "This promising future is no foregone conclusion," she said. "It requires leadership - just like in 2011 with the Smart Grid -- and it requires legislative action, just like in 2011 with the Smart Grid. And we all know that our state is occupied by some of the heavier issues of our times."

Pramaggiore says the utility giant is working with other stakeholders to "find common ground."

ComEd had introduced a proposal that would change how the rates it charges for delivering electricity are set. Critics, including the Clean Jobs renewable energy coalition, say the measure was designed to hike ComEd's profits.

Legislators shelved that plan, and a couple of others, including one from ComEd's parent company, Exelon, during their regular session. Since, Exelon has announced that it will hold off on its threatened closure of a pair of Illinois nuclear plants, in Byron and the Quad Cities.

Amanda Vinicky moved to Chicago Tonight on WTTW-TV PBS in 2017.
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