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Still time for Illinois utilities to override smart grid veto

SUBNET Solutions Inc | Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Illinois' utility Commonwealth Edison Co. is preparing for a hard fight against Governor Pat Quinn's veto of a bill that would help the company to modernize the electric grid and upgrade it with smart grid technologies, the Chicago Tribune reports.

According to the news source, Governor Quinn had long-stated a veto on the bill would be put in place on Monday, September 12, and now ComEd must scramble to gather votes to override the decision, agree to concessions and gather more votes, or start again from scratch.

"There is no doubt that the state needs a smart grid infrastructure [and] that it won't be free," said Tom Wolf, executive director of the Illinois Chamber of Commerce's Energy Council. "The question is, what's the best way to get there?"

The proposed bill, titled the ComEd bill, outlines a plan to invest in smart grid technology, one aspect of which allows electricity buyers to monitor exactly how much power they are consuming in real time so that better management of electricity usage can be developed. The plan aimed to reduce energy consumption and even allow some users to sell solar electricity back to the grid, the media outlet stated.

ComEd hoped the bill could provide a more reliable way for the costs of smart grid technologies to be implemented by removing uncertainty and regulatory lag. The plan would call for rates to be determined by a formula, rather than an 11-month review process that occurs at uneven intervals, according to the Tribune.

Utilities nationwide have made similar pushes for models based on formulas, as utility service costs are increasing faster than expected. The bills would allow utilities to recoup expenses more quickly, if enacted into law.

Five states currently have formula-based models, including Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Oklahoma and South Carolina, and ComEd hopes to add Illinois to that list by gaining enough legislative support to overturn Quinn's veto.

The bill would add an additional $3 to ComEd's monthly bill, which the utility would use to pay for improvements to the system, such as substation automation and smart grid implementation. The $2.6 billion investment would take place over 10 years, according to the news provider.

A recent report published in Energy Boom found that ComEd customers could save $2.8 billion on electricity over the next 20 years with the addition of the bill.

SUBNET Solutions is one company that works with utilities to help them implement improvements, including substation automation and smart grid technologies.  

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