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updated: 9/18/2011 8:32 AM

ComEd reps seek to clarify vetoed rate-hike plan

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In the midst of the company's ongoing mea culpa tour of the suburbs over summer power outages, representatives from ComEd met with Des Plaines residents to "clear some of the myths and misconceptions" about the legislation to increase electric rates that Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed last week.

To that end, Mike McMahan, ComEd vice president of smart grid and technology, explained the breakdown of what he described as a $2.6 billion, 10-year plan that designates about $1 billion for infrastructure and about $1.6 billion for the smart grid.

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The legislation would cost ComEd customers on average an additional $3 per month, McMahan said Saturday.

The legislation calls for the installation of a smart meter which alerts a ComEd command center when a power outage occurs and when the power resumes. It also calls for the establishment of a "self-healing grid," consisting of devices that help confine outages so fewer customers are affected, McMahan said. The legislation, known as Senate Bill 1652, also would have required the company to improve reliability and reduce the time it takes to restore power or risk penalties in the form of reduced profits, McMahan said.

The investments are necessary "if we want to upgrade this 100-year-old system to serve modern needs," said Tom O'Neill, ComEd general counsel and senior vice-president for regulatory policy.

"The ICC still sets rates and oversees us on an annual basis," O'Neill said in response to the legislation's critics, who say it would allow the company to sidestep the Illinois Commerce Commission.

State Rep. Rosemary Mulligan, who held the community meeting at the Des Plaines Library at which ComEd representatives spoke, said legislators may vote to override the governor's veto during next month's veto session.

"More than likely it will pass," said Mulligan, who voted against the legislation last time in part because of lobbying by her senior constituents, but who said she may vote for the override. "I don't think this bill was explained well," said Mulligan, adding that she thought it could benefit the area.

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