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updated: 7/13/2012 4:08 PM

Buffalo Grove pushes ComEd on Smart Grid

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  • Earlier this week, Com-Ed crews replace utility poles damaged in the Buffalo Grove brush fire.

       Earlier this week, Com-Ed crews replace utility poles damaged in the Buffalo Grove brush fire.
    Bob Chwedyk | Staff Photographer

 

The relationship between Buffalo Grove and ComEd has been strained, to say the least.

It became worse last year when, after severe storms brought widespread outages, the utility declined to pay residents compensation for losses -- then later revealed that the Smart Grid infrastructure improvements approved by the state legislature would not get to Buffalo Grove until several years down the road.

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This week's Buffalo Grove village board meeting indicated, however, that if there hasn't been a thaw in the relationship, at least there appears to be a constructive dialogue.

ComEd officials updated the village board on the progress of promised improvements in the areas that were hurt last year.

They also rolled out efforts to improve communication with residents, including an outage map on ComEd's website where the estimated time of restoration can be accessed -- and a smartphone application that allows users to report outages, make payments and view accounts.

ComEd officials described new infrastructure in the area. Reliability Manager Drew Zmolek said ComEd has installed lightning protection, done "enhanced" tree trimming and put into place a piece of Smart Grid technology in the form of "distribution automation."

It uses wireless devices to communicate with the utility's operations command center to isolate problems and reroute and quickly restore power.

One of the utility's most persistent critics, Trustee Jeffrey Berman, praised the efforts so far, but added a key communication piece is still missing, namely "responsive information" for customers who call in the course of an outage.

He noted that during Sunday's large brush fire near Buffalo Grove and Aptakisic roads, a customer called and, despite ComEd's knowledge that lines had been damaged, was told, "We don't know anything and we can't tell you anything."

"That's really unacceptable," Berman said.

Village President Jeffrey Braiman also said ComEd has made strides in communication but suggested there might be a gap in internal communication between workers in the field and customer service representatives.

Braiman added that ComEd should expedite its Smart Grid rollout, to finish installation in less than 10 years.

"We're going to pay for a decade before we see the AMI (smart meter) deployment," he said.

ComEd's Richard O'Toole said legislators chose 10 years out of a concern that rates would go up too high temporarily before savings kicked in if the money were spent too quickly.

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