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Businesses support overturn of Illinois smart grid veto

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Wednesday, September 28, 2011

On Tuesday, September 27, business leaders came together to put pressure on legislators to overturn Illinois Governor Pat Quinn's veto of a smart grid bill that was supported by Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd), Illinois' largest electric utility, the Chicago Tribune reports.

But time is almost up for ComEd and other supporters of the legislation.

"The governor's veto was a great disappointment to the business community and consumers alike," Jerry Roper, president and CEO of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce, stated. "Opportunities for this kind of investment don't come around every day, and when one does, our elected officials should seize it."

The ComEd bill proposes a plan to invest in new smart grid technologies. The grid advancements would allow customers to keep track, in real time, of how much power they are consuming, which the utility claims would lead to better electricity usage management. Also, the technology would help ComEd discover the source of a power outages more quickly, allowing the utility to make faster repairs, according to the news source.

Those opposing the bill claim it would affect how electricity rates were figured.

At a recent Chicago news conference held by S&C Electric Co., a maker of smart grid technology, company CEO John Estey gave a demonstration on how a "self-healing" power line infrastructure, when integrated with the smart grid, would help in the event of a power outage, according to the Tribune.

As of right now, when the power goes out and customers call ComEd, the utility must send trucks and personnel to locate, isolate and repair the problem, which can take a matter of hours or even days, Estery said.

But with the advent of the smart grid, a solution to a particular power outage problem could be devised in seconds. New substation automation technology would instantly isolate the reported outage and then find a way to route power from alternative substations that were unaffected by the cause of the outage, while ComEd trucks fixed the problem. The intended result is for outages to remain isolated.

"It's not bleeding-edge technology," Estey said at the demonstration. "This stuff really works."

Business leaders at the conference agreed that the technology could play an essential role in the build-out of renewable energy, as well as the coming surge in electrical vehicles, according to the news provider.

According to the organization Brighter Energy, the leaders present at the conference represented the manufacturing and high tech sectors. The groups spoke of the "significant job creation" that would ensue if the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (Senate Bill 1652) were to pass, in addition to the infrastructure benefits.

"Businesses and consumers alike depend on reliable electric delivery, and a modern smart grid is necessary to avoid outages that cost local businesses money and hurt their ability to compete," Estey said.

The bill, which will produce a $2.6 billion investment to integrate Illinois' aging electric infrastructure, was originally vetoed by Quinn on September 12.

Many groups and organization have publicly appeared since then, showing their support for the overturn of the veto.

According to the Illinois Times, executives for ComEd are confident that they can override the governor's veto, as the utility has offered to spend $150 million to prevent outages similar to what was seen this summer when storms ravaged the power lines and stations.

Once the bill is overridden, the company says, it will attempt to pass a "trailer bill" to address any remaining concerns by legislators.

SUBNET Solutions Inc. offers utilities guidance in substation automation, which is a large component of the ComEd bill.  

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