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February 14, 2013

Illinois Senate Executive Committee Moves to End 'Grid Lock'



On February 13, the Illinois Senate Executive Committee passed Senate Bill 9 out of committee by a vote of 14 to 0—thereby making a decisive move to restore most of the original funding for the grid modernization program first passed into law in 2011.

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Under the smart grid law, ComEd committed to spend $2.6 billion over 10 years to modernize the electric grid in Northern Illinois. In its first Smart Grid law rate case, the Illinois Commerce Commission's interpretation of the law reduced funding essential to completing the upgrades. As a result, ComEd faced a reduction in funding of nearly $100 million per year in 2014 and beyond.

The passage of SB 9 would help to restore ComEd's funding to nearly the level it would have been if the smart grid law had been implemented as passed. It would enable ComEd to continue building a modern grid that will reduce power outages for customers, give customers more choice and control over their energy use, provide more than $2.3 billion in customer savings, and create thousands of good-paying jobs in Illinois.

"We commend Senate President [John J.] Cullerton [D] for making jobs and grid modernization for the 21st century a key priority and moving this legislation early in the new session," said Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO. "ComEd is proceeding with a portion of the core grid modernization programs, while postponing the deployment of the remainder and all smart meters until 2015. SB 9 would allow us to get the smart grid program—and the related job creation—back on track."

"We passed legislation to modernize our electric grid while providing true safeguards for Illinois' consumers," said Cullerton. "The legislature even went a step further by passing resolutions to clarify the purpose of that legislation. The Illinois Commerce Commission must adhere to the letter and legislative intent of that law when implementing the smart grid law to upgrade our infrastructure, create jobs and protect consumers."

"On behalf of the 6,300 hard-working men and women of Northern Illinois who make up IBEW Local 15, we enthusiastically support this legislation, because it allows utilities to invest in their systems, grow the local economy and create thousands of new jobs—something our state needs badly," said Dean Apple (News - Alert), president and business manager of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International Local 15., a utility local union representing approximately 6300 members in Northern Illinois "If we don't find a solution to deploy ComEd's smart grid program as planned, our state will face a great setback. We believe SB 9 is that solution."

Under the smart grid law, last year alone, ComEd invested $165 million in grid modernization, created more than 700 jobs, built a new, state-of-the-art training center in Rockford, and enhanced storm-hardening to minimize storm-related outages. The utility also installed over 470 smart switches,–devices that re-route power in the event of a fault, avoiding 82,000 customer outages in 2012.

Ultimately, ComEd's modernization efforts are designed to reduce outages by 700,000 per year, saving customers an estimated $100 million in outage-related costs.

If it becomes law, SB 9 would have negligible impact on customers' bills in 2013. It would increase the average residential customer bill of $82 per year by approximately 40 cents per month in 2014; increasing to approximately 80 cents per month in 2017. This is not new; it is part of the anticipated $3 per month that the grid modernization program will ultimately cost. In fact, due to the original Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) legislation impact of a first-year rate reduction, today's rates are essentially the same as before the grid modernization program began.

ComEd provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population.




Edited by Brooke Neuman
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