Guest Column: Setting the record straight on ComEd rates and benefits of Smart Grid

Editor’s note: This column is in response to “Battle lines being drawn in Springfield in fight over utility rates,” Dec. 24-30, 2014, issue.

By Fidel Marquez
Senior vice president, Legislative and External Affairs, Commonwealth Edison

A Rock River Times article dated Dec. 24 contained a number of inaccuracies about ComEd, its activities and rates, and ignored entirely the increased value brought to consumers over the past three years in the form of improved reliability, enhanced customer service and opportunities for consumers to take greater control over energy consumption and costs. We want to set the record straight.

In 2011, the Illinois General Assembly enacted the Smart Grid law. It authorized ComEd to invest $2.6 billion to modernize the electric system to better serve customers and the region in a digital economy that places a premium on reliability. The Smart Grid law is working. Since 2012, storm restoration performance has improved more than 29 percent. The infrastructure investments have resulted in more than one million avoided customer outages, saving customers an estimated $175 million.

In the process, the Smart Grid program has pumped more than a billion dollars into the Illinois economy. It has spurred the creation of at least eight new companies and the growth of many more, supporting 3,800 full-time equivalent positions in 2014 alone. Recently, Gridwise Alliance and Smart Policy Center ranked Illinois third in the nation based on efforts to modernize and transform the electric system with smart grid technology.

We’re also improving communications with customers. We’ve launched a suite of digital tools, including a mobile-friendly app that allows our customers to report an outage from their smart phone, receive estimated restoration times and view and pay their electric bills. Our mobile communication tools have been recognized by J.D. Power and Associates as among the best in the industry.

In launching the Smart Grid program, we agreed to an initial rate reduction to demonstrate our commitment, saving consumers $44 million. As expected, rates have risen in subsequent years, reflecting the higher costs of Grid Modernization, but ComEd rates continue to offer significant value ­— they are below the average of rates charged in the 10 largest cities in the U.S. and 2 percent below ComEd rates in 1989.

We’ll complete the installation of 4 million digital smart meters throughout the service territory in 2018. These meters provide customers with the information needed to make smart decisions about their energy usage. They also make it easier for customers to take advantage of money-saving programs such as the Peak Time Savings. It provides customers with bill credits for shifting usage to off-peak periods, which also benefits the environment — one more example of efforts under way to make our customers in northern Illinois among the most savvy energy consumers in the nation.

From the Jan. 7-13, 2015, issue

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