Illinois Orders Study of Smart Grid Initiative

September 15, 2008

The Illinois Commerce Commission has approved a rate request by ComEd that includes a plan to study smart grid technologies. Such technologies can alert the utility when an outage occurs and help customers track electricity rates over a 24-hour period—enabling them to choose the cheapest times to use electricity and cut back their overall consumption.

The commission voted on September 10 to allow ComEd to begin collecting about $270 million in additional revenue, which is $90 million less than ComEd requested. The move will increase the typical residential customer's bill by $4.50.

As part of its request for a rate increase, ComEd proposed to modernize its systems, including a program to develop and deploy new "smart" electric meters to its customers. The commission directed ComEd to immediately perform a study on the smart grid technology and then to work with other interested parties to analyze smart grid issues.

The smart meters would transmit information about power outages and power use to the ComEd, which would allow the utility to respond more quickly to outages and to better manage the output from its power plants. The meters would also show customers how their electricity costs fluctuate in real time, allowing them to conserve during peak rate times, if they so choose, and providing incentive to cut back their overall consumption.

Furthermore, smart meters would help prepare the entire power system for motorists who shift to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). This shift could increase demand for electricity. (On a related note, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has done research on vehicle-to-grid technology that would allow PHEV owners to feed excess power from their vehicles back to the grid. See the May-June 2006 article in Solar Today Magazine.)

For more information on the rate decision, see the commission's September 10 press release.

To read more about renewable energy and energy efficiency projects in Illinois, see: