ComEd customers could save $2.8 billion on their electric bills over the 20-year life of the smart meters according to a comprehensive analysis by Black & Veatch, the consultancy charged with evaluating the one-year smart meter pilot approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). This savings would be over and above any savings customers would see by using smart meters to manage their own energy usage.
The new analysis demonstrates that the cost to ComEd customers in installing smart meter technology would be more than offset by the benefits. The savings identified in the report result from operational improvements. This net $2.8 billion in cumulative customer benefits will be generated by:
- Virtual elimination of manual meter reading, more accurate bills, and fewer service visits and calls to the Customer Call Center. (Employees impacted by this automation will be transitioned to other areas of the business.)
- Improved electricity theft detection and quicker sign-up of new customers minimizing energy losses.
- Enhanced disconnection and reconnection of electric service, minimizing collection costs.
"ComEd continually is working to identify ways to improve service and offer additional value to its customers," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and chief operating officer, ComEd. "Smart meter system technology can improve service, help customers make more informed decisions about energy use, and contribute to lower energy costs."
The Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (Senate Bill 1652), which would authorize a multi-billion investment in modernizing Illinois' electric grid while maintaining strict regulatory oversight and consumer protections, passed both chambers of the Illinois General Assembly in May.
"As other states are building more efficient and reliable electric grids, Illinois is in danger of falling behind," said Pramaggiore. "The jobs and economic development opportunities generated by this investment will provide a much-needed push to our state's economy. Coupled with new pricing options and opportunities for customers to lower their electricity bills, this legislation will positively benefit every one of our customers."
If the legislation were to take effect this year, installation would likely begin next year and run through 2021. In addition to the savings documented by Black & Veatch, consumers also could save on energy costs by taking advantage of new pricing options and information made possible by the digital technology at the core of a Smart Grid.
The Institute for Electric Efficiency (IEE) recently issued white paper, "The Costs and Benefits of Smart Meters for Residential Customers (July 2011), states that investments in smart meter systems make economic sense, and that the consumer-driven savings could be much greater: "We believe that by investing in and focusing on customer education and engagement most customers will migrate from passive engagement in energy management to much more active strategies," said Lisa Wood, executive director, IEE.
ComEd has proposed energy policy change in order to make the necessary long-term investments in its electric infrastructure. If a Smart Grid was fully operational during the July 11 storm that struck northern Illinois, Smart Grid system technology would have pinpointed outages allowing us to dispatch crews more quickly to restore service. Digital automation would have rerouted power or have corrected a problem before an outage occurred meaning fewer customers would have seen outages, and if outages did occur some of them would have been shorter in duration. ComEd estimates that a more modern grid would have avoided from 100,000 to 175,000 customer interruptions of the more than 850,000 customer interruptions during the storm.
To assist customers who maybe experiencing difficulties in paying their bills, the Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) bill assistance program is available this fall to allow eligible residents to pay a certain percentage of their monthly income for electric service, therefore making the payments more affordable.
Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE:EXC), one of the nation's largest electric utilities with approximately 5.4 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state's population.