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ComEd continues work on smart grid deployment project

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, May 08, 2012

If ComEd's latest smart grid plan is deployed as expected, customers can expect shorter and less frequent power outages and utilities could see improved operating efficiencies within the next 10 years, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.

ComEd says that once Illinois' antiquated electric infrastructure is updated with new smart grid technologies, calls from customers to report when and where a power outage occurred will no longer be necessary. With the updated grid, the system in place will report problems all on its own and even perform its own maintenance, the news source stated.

On Monday, the company filed its plan with the Illinois Commerce Commission, which will give the nod to allow the company to begin installing smart digital meters throughout the utility's service area. The meters' benefits include turning power on or off remotely and updates that are sent directly to the utility, among others.

"This is a very, very exciting time at ComEd," said Ross Hemphill, vice president of regulatory policy and strategy. "Introducing technology such as this provides us an opportunity to better serve our customers. We are very busy, but we have a new sense of purpose here because we have the opportunity to provide ... more valuable and better service."

In the next decade, ComEd expects to spend $2.6 billion on smart grid improvements, which in addition to smart meters, include work being done to reinforce utility poles, replace underground cables and install distribution automation devices on existing infrastructure.

In Will County, seven distribution automation devices have already been installed, which will help operations in Joliet and Plainfield Township with outages and power restoration functions, according to Mike McMahon, vice president of smart grid technology for ComEd.

"If there’s an outage, if a tree branch knocks a pole over anywhere on the main line, everyone loses power," McMahon said. "In distribution automation, it will find where the tree fell, isolate where the power outage is and everyone else keeps the power."

ComEd plans to install another 22 distribution automation devices in Will County by the end of 2012, according to the news source.

Utilities installing such advanced equipment onto their electric infrastructure will need equally modernized software to connect widely varying devices. SUBNET has developed several products that help utilities manage the large quantity of data that will come from smart grid installations, and ensures projects adhere to strict NERC CIP requirements. 

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