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updated: 1/6/2012 4:43 PM

ComEd plans $233 million start to 'smart grid' upgrade this year

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Daily Herald reports

CHICAGO -- ComEd filed with the Illinois Commerce Commission its 10-year, $2.6 billion plan to upgrade the system's infrastructure to accommodate new "smart grid" and digital meter technology.

The utility said in the filing 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.

ComEd said it plans to spend $233 million this year on improvements and to develop a smart grid 'test bed" to provide entrepreneurs "on-grid" locations for testing of smart grid-related technologies and services.

Implementation of the program began this week, although the ICC will still need to sign off on the plan.

Pending ICC approval, the installation of advanced meters in homes and businesses is slated to begin later this year, the company said in a release, and continue through 2021. In the first five years of the program, ComEd said it 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 ComEd President and Chief Operating Officer Anne Pramaggiore. "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."

The utility said the largest investments this year will be in refurbishing and replacing underground residential distribution 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.

Investments will also be aimed at reducing susceptibility of 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 company said. The 2012 reliability investments also include the inspection and any necessary treatment of approximately 133,400 wood utility poles.

ComEd will also 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.

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