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*** UPDATED x1 *** It ain’t all bad

Wednesday, Sep 28, 2011

* Without a doubt, the “Smart Grid” bill was one of the most controversial pieces of legislation passed by the General Assembly this past spring. Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the legislation has been lauded far and wide. But this issue isn’t as cut and dried as it too often looks. As I’ve already told you more than once, I’ve been a proponent of a smart grid for several years. Modernizing our infrastructure gives us a leg up on the competition, both regionally and internationally.

Yesterday, a group of business leaders held a press conference to discuss the benefits of the technology, which is often lost in the shuffle

At a news conference held at S&C Electric Co. in Chicago, which makes smart-grid technology, John Estey, the company’s president and CEO, demonstrated how “self-healing” electrical lines promised by a smart grid would work in the case of an outage.

Today, he said, the power goes out, residents call ComEd and the company rushes trucks out to find, isolate and fix the problem, a process than can take hours or days.

With a smart grid, he said, the problem can be resolved in seconds. The system automatically isolates the outages and figures out a way to run power from substations that are still working to homes with outages, while ComEd runs trucks to fix the problem. The result, he said, is that outages don’t become widespread.

“It’s not bleeding-edge technology,” he said. “This stuff really works.”

We have a semi-smart grid in Springfield. My power went out Sunday morning. I called CWLP and was informed that the utility already knew my power was out and that a fix was underway. But a real Smart Grid might’ve meant that my power would’ve remained on the whole time.

* One of the business owners who spoke at yesterday’s press conference said his company was being wooed by Michigan to relocate out of Illinois. Michigan is, indeed, ramping up its Smart Grid technology

On Monday, utility Consumers Energy announced it will work with SmartSynch to roll out cellular-based smart meters for 1.8 million customers in Michigan. Consumers Energy says that it will start deploying the network in August 2012 and will continue until 2019.

SmartSynch says Consumers Energy is the largest utility to embrace cellular for smart meters. Earlier this year Duke Energy also indicated it would put a large emphasis on cellular networks for its smart grid roll-out, too.

* There are the usual complaints from Luddites

According to a Vancouver Sun news report, local politicians have expressed a repeated theme that their ratepayers have concerns about potential health impacts from the radio frequency (RF) emitting devices.

* But almost totally missed by most reporters who write about this proposal is that the Sierra Club is also a major supporter. Jack Darin, the group’s executive director, wrote this not long ago..

This Spring, the General Assembly passed the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act. The core of the legislation, Senate Bill 1652, aims to build a smarter, stronger grid for the future. Building up the grid is great, but just as important is breaking down the barriers to clean, renewable energy that makes service more reliable and the air cleaner. SB 1652 does just that by allowing large rooftop owners to benefit by installing solar and windpower on their roofs.

f these big box stores, office parks, warehouses, parking garages, and other large rooftop owners install clean energy on the roof, they would get the same incentive homeowners currently have – on days when they make more electricity than they use, putting the extra back on the grid, they get a credit for that power against their electric bill. In addition, utilities would be required to buy some of the power they sell to us from small renewable systems like these. The combined effect of these two incentives will be turning empty roofs into job sites, with electricians, equipment operators, carpenters, laborers, and others installing pollution-free power systems.

The bill makes another fundamental reform that will reduce the cost of power by harnessing market forces to spur new energy efficiency businesses. SB 1652 will change the way the Illinois Power Agency (IPA) and our utilities buy our power. In addition to buying nuclear, coal, solar, and wind power, the they will now also buy power from entities that reduce energy use if it is cheaper than generation. This will provide a market- ‐based mechanism that will save consumers money and create jobs and economic growth.

Still, even Darin has reservations about the bill’s lack of consumer protections

With added protection for consumers to go along with needed grid upgrades and new energy technologies, the forecast can look a whole lot better in the years ahead.

There are real problems with this bill. That’s to be expected, since ComEd basically wrote it. The General Assembly really dropped the ball on that one.

* The Pioneer Press published a story recently about how one man is using his smart meter to save big bucks

Since buying a smart meter in July 2010, Russell has combined this information with the price-per-kilowatt data he finds on ComEd’s website to produce his savings. ComEd’s electricity rates change by the hour (a formula guided by how much power it has to generate during the day versus how much leftover juice it has sitting in its grid at night), and it reaches its lowest prices around 2 and 3 a.m.

Through site monitoring, Russell has found that, sometimes, in the middle of the night, ComEd has so much energy to spare that it gives it away for free. Other times, its rate goes “negative,” and ComEd actually pays customers to take unwanted electricity off its hands.

“They say ‘Use it, please, please, please,’” he explained.

*** UPDATE *** Speaking of Luddites, this incredibly paranoid YouTube video has over 700,000 views

[Hat tip to a commenter.]

* Related…

* VIDEO: Imagine an electric grid that tells the power company when it is down without you having to call in the problem! John Estey, CEO of President of S&C Electric Company demonstrates how an electric smart grid works as Illinois business leaders gather to voice their support for the Illinois Infrastructure Modernization Act.

* Smart-Grid Sales in Latin America to Reach $1 Billion, GE Says

* Elmhurst council works on message to ComEd: ‘It’s time for results’

- Posted by Rich Miller        

17 Comments
  1. - BIG R. Ph - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 11:55 am:

    So what this Russell guy is saying (or doing) is setting his dishwasher and his A/C to run very heavy during this 2-3am time slot and thus is saving a lot of money?


  2. - wordslinger - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:00 pm:

    Any benefits to the technology were drowned out by the attempted end-run of the ICC. Plus, ComEd has to be one of the worst brands in Illinois when it comes to trustworthiness and reliability.


  3. - Fed up - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:06 pm:

    So our state reps were to lazy to write this bill themselves so Com Ed used it as a chance to muzzle the icc and grab money from tax payers. Maybe if someone in charge ie Madigan cullerton did their job a good bill would of emerged. As of right now this veto is one of the only things Soy Boy has done right.


  4. - Officer McNulty - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:11 pm:

    Got this last week from my tea-party brother. Next issue for the everything-is-a-conspiracy-of-tyrannical-government crowd: Smart Meters.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8JNFr_j6kdI

    Some real gems in there


  5. - 47th Ward - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:18 pm:

    Yes Wordsliner, there was no need to gut the ICC’s role in rate-setting and accountability. Com Ed over-reached on that, and while it’s hard to blame them, the GA really needs to clean that up with a trailer or with new legislation in the spring.

    I’m all for Smart Grid and I have no problem paying a fair amount for it, but there is no reason to toss out the ICC’s historic role in regulating public utility monopolies. Com Ed is entitled to a reasonable profit, but it should be ICC’s definition of reasonable, not Com Ed’s definition.


  6. - Newsclown - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:35 pm:

    Smart grid, dumb lobby. The tech is worth getting, but Com Ed used it as a cover for their obscene money grabs and attempts to escape regulation. Everyone would vote for the tech to be adopted with a modest surcharge that had a sunset provision. It was the other unrelated stuff they tried to hang on this bill that killed it all.


  7. - SportShoz - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 12:45 pm:

    Oops on the quote above…

    “This bill is NOT really about smart grid, it just sounds sexy.”


  8. - in the 'ville - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:25 pm:

    Look at Naperville if you want to see the right way to run an Electric department. They are decades into this and are just rounding out the final touches of a municipally owned smart grid. Extremely reliable service at rates that ComEd can’t compete with!


  9. - Amy - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:27 pm:

    I used to work in the utility industry so know a little bit about this - smartgrid is promising but there are winners and losers. the losers are generally people without as much flexibility as to when they use electricity, because real-time pricing is most expensive during the typical dinner hour, with fridge being opened and closed and stove being used while the tv and computer are on.

    winners are churches (since weekend morning electric loads aren’t high, so prices are lower) and 3-shift businesses.

    And letting the utility write the law and essentially pass as much of the investment cost onto consumers is of course foolish.


  10. - Rich Miller - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:29 pm:

    ===the losers are generally people without as much flexibility as to when they use electricity===

    That’s the same with or without smart grid.


  11. - Loop Lady - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 1:44 pm:

    I find it very interesting that Darin/Sierra Club
    is supportive of this legislation while Learner/ELPC agrees with the Gov on the veto…what’s going on here?


  12. - dupage dan - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 2:09 pm:

    Geez, that Utube guy should talk to his psych Drs. Seems he needs to have his Rx adjusted.

    On the other hand, I was hooking up my new cell phone to the charger and I thought I saw some eyes peeking out from the plug.


  13. - RobM - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 2:16 pm:

    Re: YouTube dude….Ever since Dr. Hartley closed up his practice, Elliot Carlin has really gone off the rails, huh?


  14. - thechampaignlife - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 3:35 pm:

    I signed up for Power Smart Pricing when Ameren was pushing it a couple years ago and have seen my bill cut 10% by hourly pricing. The smart meter was free and we haven’t had to change habits whatsoever, even with a stay-at-home mom and 115 year old house. But I have eyed those near free or negative overnight rates thinking how awesome a whole house battery backup system that charged during those off hours and ran the house off battery during peak times would cut the bill even further…


  15. - Jake From Elwood - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 4:07 pm:

    Unless the smart meters record images and sounds they are not tantamount to videorecording or wiretaps. Speaker is missing his tinfoil hat.


  16. - Chicago Cynic - Wednesday, Sep 28, 11 @ 4:33 pm:

    As Doug Scott said at yesterday’s CityClub, all you need to know about the devious nature of this bill is how ComEd is using it to redefine how they should be judged on weather-related outages.

    ComEd wrote the bill with rigorous performance standards with one small exception - ComEd gets NINE days each year when weather-related outages don’t count towards their performance standards. NINE. They were desperately hoping nobody would notice this little problematic provision.

    It’s like saying that doctors should get nine malpractice exemptions annually before judging their performance. Ridiculous. And the rest of the bill is riddled with the same kind of one-sided provisions.

    It’s a very bad bill.


  17. - Apollo - Thursday, Sep 29, 11 @ 11:23 am:

    This was a great veto by Gov Quinn. I applaud the lawmakers who voted no.


Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.


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