ComEd's smart meter system upgrade coming to Libertyville

Libertyville will be among the next round of communities to have standard electric meters replaced with smart devices.

ComEd is investing $1 billion across its system to replace traditional meters with digital meters, which are said to be able to help lower bills and provide other benefits. The change is part of an ongoing $2.6 billion system upgrade to improve reliability.

About a dozen communities and areas in Lake County already have smart meters, with installation beginning this year in Libertyville, Zion, Winthrop Harbor, Lincolnshire, Lindenhurst, Long Grove, Wildwood and Wauconda.

In Libertyville, the process will begin in April. The majority of the 10,677 meters will be exchanged in September and October, but the work is expected to stretch into 2017. Residents will receive advance notice in several ways, village officials were told.

To date, ComEd has installed nearly 1.9 million smart meters and plans to have installed about 4 million smart meters in all homes and business in its territory by the end of 2018.

David Doherty, director of the smart meter transformation for the utility company, this week reviewed the program for the Libertyville village board and explained the capabilities of the new meters.

Smart meters collect energy usage information that can be read remotely, allowing the company to determine and react to power outages more quickly, Doherty said. The meters also will send a signal when a customer loses power.

As the distributor of electricity, ComEd can cut power remotely, but there are specific rules overseen by the Illinois Commerce Commission to do so, he said. Suppliers can't cut power to customers, he added.

"I've spent a career trying to keep the lights on," Doherty told village officials.

According to company literature, consumers can benefit from the new technology by being able to access their power usage online and alter habits as needed to better manage consumption. The meters also will provide access to optional pricing programs, such as switching use to times when it costs less to produce.

"I think this is really cool. It's nice to have these things," Trustee Rich Moras said.

The cost of overall system improvements for residential customers is about $3 per month, according to the company, with smart meters accounting for about $2 of that amount.

The consumer watchdog Citizens Utility Board said ComEd is building a more efficient and reliable system but has a way to go to maximize consumer benefits.

Com Ed crews install a smart meter in Buffalo Grove. Courtesy of Com Ed
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