ComEd distribution automation reduces power outages

ComEd submitted a progress report to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) showing major accomplishments in the first year of the smart grid program, including the installation of 470 distribution automation devices.

Distribution automation routes power around potential problem areas, often with no noticeable interruption in service. Installation of these devices resulted in 82,000 fewer customer power interruptions in 2012. During the severe storms that hit the Chicago area in mid-April, DA devices prevented 20,000 service interruptions.

By remotely monitoring and controlling grid operations, distribution automation devices, or smart switches, are a central feature of smart grid technology and ComEd's effort to reduce the frequency and duration of outages.

Working at an accelerated pace in 2012 as a result of the smart grid law enacted in 2011, ComEd installed more than 470 DA devices. Over the course of the 10-year grid modernization program, ComEd is increasing the number of customers served by DA from 55 to nearly 90 percent. The utility invested a total of $32 million in the installation of DA in 2012 and is increasing the investment to over $44 million this year.

When fully implemented, distribution automation and smart meters will communicate with ComEd's operations center, alerting the utility of an outage and eliminating the need for customers to call to report they are out of power. Smart meters will enable the utility to know as soon as power has been restored. When DA is on a system serving homes with smart meters, the utility can more efficiently dispatch personnel to the appropriate locations to accelerate restoration.

Under the smart grid law, ComEd committed to spend $2.6 billion over 10 years to strengthen and modernize the electric grid in northern Illinois. More than $1.3 billion is earmarked to deploy a smart grid system and install smart meters in four million homes and businesses to give customers greater control over their energy consumption and costs.

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