Storm cost ComEd $80 million

 
 
Updated 8/15/2011 6:05 PM

Fewer power outages, quicker restoration times and better communication are the chief concerns ComEd officials have been hearing in the aftermath of a summer of big storms.

"We know what our customers want," Anne Pramaggiore, the utility's president and chief operating officer said Monday.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

The company has been getting an earful about reliability and service from municipal leaders, customers and legislators after hundreds of thousands have been without power -- some for several days at a time -- as 10 significant storms have hit.

Those include the July 11 windstorm, the largest in ComEd history, which cut power to 907,000 customers and cost $80 million to address.

Pramaggiore gave an overview of how rough this season has been and made the pitch for technology and service upgrades in a media teleconference in advance of a hearing Tuesday by the state House public utilities committee. The informational hearing is scheduled for 10 a.m. at the Highland Park Country Club, 1201 Park Avenue West.

"This has been a summer unlike any other we've encountered at ComEd," she said. More customers have been without power this year to date than any full year in the last 10, she added, as the weather has put "unprecedented stress on our electric grid."

The July 11 storm produced 18,000 lightning strikes and hurricane force winds of 80 mph, she added.

Six hundred communities were affected, with about 100 of those having three quarters or more of its customers without power.

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Fifty local contractors and 400 crews from 14 states were called to assist with repairs, doubling ComEd's workforce, she said. At one point, 5,000 employees were working 16-hour shifts.

Pramaggiore said new technology would have resulted in 180,000 fewer outages from the July 11 storm and sped up repair time through the use of smart meters that pinpoint outages without customers having to call.

Senate Bill 1652, which authorizes the Smart Grid program along with rate increases, is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn's signature. The 10-year program would result in a $2.6 billion investment.

Pramaggiore said the bill includes performance standards that if not met could cost ComEd tens of millions of dollars in a given year and includes rebate pricing for customers with smart meters.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

State Rep. Karen May of Highland Park, a member of the public utilities committee, called for the hearing in light of repeated and widespread power losses.

"They have been listening, but so far we haven't heard any action plans," she said Monday.

About two dozen entities are expected to provide testimony and top officials of the Illinois Commerce Commission, which regulates ComEd, will present its role in that regard and answer questions. The public can also offer testimony.

May, who supported the smart grid legislation, said "problem pockets" have to be addressed by ComEd.

"I'm looking for action now," she said. "We will see what they tell us."