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ICC lets ComEd delay smart meters until 2015

By: Julie Wernau |

The Illinois Commerce Commission on Wednesday approved ComEd’s request to delay the installation of smart meters until 2015 but said it will revisit the issue in April when the utility is scheduled to file a progress report on the program.

Under massive grid modernization legislation, ComEd was supposed to begin installing smart meters this year, but the ICC cut the funds ComEd was expecting to receive under the program and the utility said it could no longer afford to install the meters that quickly. The two sides are battling in court in a process that could take years.

An administrative law judge, as well as several consumer advocacy groups, had recommended the commission not accept the delay.

Jim Chilsen, spokesman for Citizens Utility Board, said a delay is not in the best interest of consumers. According to a ComEd commissioned analysis, the delay means consumers will miss out on approximately $187 million in savings that could come from the program over 20 years and will pay $5 million more for the smart meters. Chilsen said that CUB, which had urged the commission not to delay the program, will review the order once it becomes available and that it could seek to appeal the decision before the Illinois Appeals Court.

Other aspects of smart grid installation are under way, including “smart switches” used to automatically isolate outages and reroute power to customers. However, smart meters are the most consumer facing aspect smart grid and let the utility track on a computer what customers lack power and those who have had power restored.

Without the smart meters, customers must alert ComEd to an outage. Other parts of smart grid allow ComEd to see where the power is out in general.

The smart meters were a major component in ComEd’s pitch to the state legislature for massive regulatory overhaul legislation that streamlines the rate-making processto give ComEd faster and more frequent rate hikes as it undertakes the multibillion-dollar grid modernization.