Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) is bringing more than a smart grid to its northern Illinois service territory. This week, the utility, a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation, announced that its 10-year, $2.6 billion infrastructure modernization program created 3,000 full-time equivalent jobs during the second quarter of 2013. These include more than 1,000 direct full-time equivalent jobs, on-site at the utility and its contractors as submitted in a report to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), plus more than 2,000 induced full-time equivalent positions.
And those job numbers reflect infrastructure work completed prior to the actual deployment of four million smart meters to the utility’s 3.7 million electricity customers, which started on Sept. 3. The first smart meters to be installed were in the western suburbs, beginning in North Riverside. ComEd expects to install 60,000 smart meters by the end of 2013. The full deployment will be complete in 2021.
Specifically, ComEd's grid modernization plan for 2013 includes $148 million in capital investments dedicated to system reliability and storm hardening to improve resiliency of circuits especially susceptible to storms. This includes the inspection and refurbishment of cable, poles and manholes.
The utility also will invest approximately $118 million in smart grid technology this year. In addition to starting the rollout of meters, ComEd will upgrade two more substations with micro-processor relays and real-time monitoring and will add more than 600 smart switches that automatically reroute power around problems areas, often with no noticeable interruption in service.
Above, a Commonwealth Edison worker on the job (courtesy ComEd).
Hundreds More Workers
The report to ICC showed that the grid modernization program supported 1,036 full-time equivalent positions, including 289 at the utility and 747 with its contractors.
In addition, based on the proportion of direct to induced jobs created by the program in 2012, ComEd estimates that 2,072 induced jobs were generated in the second quarter as a result of the ripple effect of capital spending. (Induced jobs represent positions created at businesses that benefit from the smart grid increased expenditures.)
Together, these offer employment to an additional 300 workers over the first quarter, when the grid modernization program resulted in nearly 2,700 full-time equivalent positions. The increase can be attributed to the continued ramp-up in infrastructure and smart meter investments. Last year, the smart grid work created 785 full-time equivalent jobs at the utility and its contractors along with an estimated 1,700 induced jobs.
"Grid modernization is proving to be an even stronger economic engine than we anticipated," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. "It is creating good-paying jobs at ComEd and among our contractors, and these positions are having a significant ripple effect in the broader economy. The program will continue to make a positive economic impact, especially as we begin installing smart meters in four million homes and businesses in northern Illinois."
Regional Companies Reap Profits
Smart grid deployment, which began in January 2012, has provided an important boost to regional companies with the expertise needed to support the modernization, such as Intren, Inc., of Union, Ill. A specialist in construction for the utility industry, Intren is playing a key role in ComEd's accelerated efforts to refurbish and replace underground residential cable, which is reducing the number and length of power outages.
"Under ComEd's grid modernization program, they've replaced hundreds of miles of underground cable so far this year, working at twice the normal rate," said Intren CEO Loretta Rosenmayer. "This increased investment resulted in work for 212 full-time equivalent positions at Intren in the second quarter, and we're excited to be contributing to the important job of modernizing the electric system serving our region."
Intren is one of a growing number of minority and women-owned enterprises (MWBE) participating in the grid modernization program. Under the Smart Grid law passed in 2011, ComEd committed to increasing opportunities for MWBE companies by 15 percent over a 10-year period, representing millions of dollars in additional spending.
Edited by Alisen Downey