ComEd smart grid plan adds consumer protections

  • ComEd is expected to invest more than $2 billion to upgrade its 100-year-old electric grid.

    ComEd is expected to invest more than $2 billion to upgrade its 100-year-old electric grid. Daily Herald file photo

  • Marty Moylan

    Marty Moylan

  • Elaine Nekritz

    Elaine Nekritz

 
By Jeff Engelhardt
Updated 5/26/2011 5:37 AM

SPRINGFIELD -- ComEd officials have backed off their plan to ask for annual, nearly automatic, rate hikes, but may get quicker rate-hike reviews.

In exchange, ComEd plans to invest more than $2 billion in an overhaul of its 100-year-old electric grid that would implement more "green" energy practices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Under the plan, state regulators would review the utility's rate hike request for up to eight and a half months. Now, it takes 10 months.

Also, rate increases would be capped at 2.5 percent for the first three years, and a profit cap would require ComEd to refund customers if the company exceeds it.

"We listened, we heard and we responded," ComEd President Anne Pramaggiore said about concerns over the initial proposal.

ComEd also will be subject to performance standards. If the company fails to reduce outages, deliver savings and reduce estimated bills by 90 percent, it will face financial penalties.

But Attorney General Lisa Madigan said the changes still allow ComEd to take advantage of customers.

"Today, their legion of lobbyists continue to push legislation that will require consumers to fund billions more in guaranteed profits," Madigan said. "This new proposal is just more of the same: a plan that hits consumers where it hurts the most -- their wallets."

Changes in the legislation come as state regulators gave ComEd a rate increase Tuesday that would add about $3.15 to an average family's monthly electric bill.

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The measure that would lead to ComEd upgrading its power grid has gained support from some suburban leaders, as Des Plaines Mayor Martin Moylan was in Springfield Wednesday to push for its passage.

He said the upgraded grid would cut down on outages, which would help the city prevent flooding and failing sump pumps, as well as attract businesses with the energy efficiencies.

"We are supportive of this and we're supportive of the job factor, which could make a lot of work for our residents," Moylan said. "They took important feedback and I'm appreciative of all the accommodations they made."

Other suburban officials have not been as supportive of ComEd's proposal. Rep. Elaine Nekritz, a Northbrook Democrat, offered an alternative plan that focuses on energy efficiencies and the construction of a so-called clean coal plant.

The plan would require rates to increase no more than 2 percent over the next 30 years.