Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Smart grid helps ComEd halve service interruptions

Steve Rogerson
April 13, 2017

ComEd has reduced the frequency and duration of service interruptions by 44 and 48 per cent, respectively, due to its smart grid programme.
The Illinois utility reported last week to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) that infrastructure programmes authorised under the Smart Grid Law are on schedule, with some of the major projects being completed in June.
ComEd’s 2017 update to its infrastructure investment plan and the advanced metering implementation progress report provides a comprehensive review of the smart grid programme established by the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA). Enacted in 2011, EIMA authorised ComEd to invest $2.6bn to upgrade and modernise its electric delivery system over a ten-year period.
Because of these investments, ComEd says its customers are benefiting from record-breaking reliability with more than 7.6 million avoided outages since the launch of the programme in 2012 and an associated $1.4bn in societal savings.
"The smart grid programme investments are delivering remarkable results for our customers and our economy," said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd. "These investments, along with our unrelenting focus on providing exceptional customer service have led to best reliability on record, with the fewest and shortest power outages ever experienced by ComEd customers. The smart grid programme also has supported thousands of jobs and development in our communities. It has laid the foundation and set Illinois on a path to a smart, lean, custom and reliable energy future – that’s what our customers want and deserve."
The smart grid programme includes the installation of smart meters, which enable customers to control energy consumption and costs. To date, smart meters have been installed in more than three million homes and businesses in ComEd’s 28,500 square kilometre region in northern Illinois.
The smart grid programme also required ComEd to create at least 2000 full-time equivalent positions during the peak programme year. It doubled the number of positions required, supporting 4572 positions, including direct jobs at ComEd and its contractors and suppliers and induced positions representing a broad range of functions required to build a modern electric grid. In 2016, the smart grid programme supported 4285 positions.
The grid modernisation programmes include refurbishment or replacement of thousands of kilometres of cable, including underground residential cable, mainline cable and high voltage underground cable. It is also assessing more than 30,000 manholes on its system, replacing or repairing cable systems and performing structural work ranging from minor refurbishment to complete replacement.
The utility is inspecting more than 880,000 wood poles, reinforcing and replacing more than 20,000 of them. It has conducted storm hardening to reduce susceptibility of certain circuits to storm-related damage, including high winds, thunder storms and ice storms. These improvements include installation of tree resistant cable, tree trimming and additional vegetation management.
ComEd will install more than 700,000 smart meters this year and complete the total installation of nearly four million smart meters in 2018, three years ahead of the original schedule. Smart meter benefits include easy access to money saving programmes, such as peak time savings. Programme participants are earning financial incentives by reducing energy usage during just a few peak demand hours, with 166,383 customers earning $1.2m in bill credits since the programme debuted in 2015.
Smart grid-related investments also include distribution automation (DA), which detects issues on the distribution system and automatically re-routes power to reduce frequency and duration of service interruptions. The DA programme was completed in 2016 after installation of more than 2600 devices, benefitting 71 per cent of ComEd’s customers. These smart switches resulted in 1.4 million avoided customer interruptions in 2016 and the number of customers impacted by storms has been reduced by 37 per cent since 2012.
Smart grid investments also include digital upgrades to 16 substations through installation of microprocessor-based devices that remotely monitor the health of transformers and improve visibility to the system so that potential problems can be more easily identified and prevented. ComEd will continue its substation modernisation into 2021 when the smart grid programme will be completed.
"Because of smart grid investments, today we have a smarter, stronger and more efficient energy delivery system that is providing great value to our customers and state," said Terence Donnelly, executive vice president and COO of ComEd. "These investments have played an important role in the record-setting reliability we have achieved as we’ve brought a 100-year-old system into the 21st century, ready to power homes and businesses in today’s digital economy."
Commonwealth Edison (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon, which has approximately ten million customers. ComEd provides service to about 3.8 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 per cent of the state’s population.