Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), the largest electric utility in Illinois, is hoping to fend off criticism of proposed price rises it says are needed to pay for its smart-grid deployment by claiming the scheme helped to create 2,400 jobs last year, giving a much-needed boost to the local economy.
ComEd (Chicago, IL, USA) suffered a major setback in May 2012 when the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) forced it to cut the rates it proposed to charge customers at an estimated cost to the utility of about $100 million.
The ICC subsequently allowed ComEd to postpone the deployment of smart meters until 2015, but the utility says it will be able to get its smart-meter rollout “back on track” if new legislation is enacted in the spring session.
Last month, the Illinois Senate and House passed a ComEd-backed bill overturning some of the ICC rulings and allowing the utility to generate an additional $70 million annually from higher rates.
However, ComEd needs the bill to become law by June if it is to restart its smart-meter rollout later this year.
ComEd is expecting Governor Pat Quinn to veto the bill but will attempt to override any veto on the basis of the bill’s passage through both Senate and House.
In the meantime, the utility has submitted data to the Illinois Commerce Commission showing that its grid modernization efforts led to the creation of 2,400 full-time jobs in Illinois last year.
It claims that its $165 million program led to the creation of 785 direct and contractor jobs, including positions at ComEd as well as outside contractors, and also argues that the “ripple effect” of capital spending created a further 1,700 “induced” jobs in the state last year.
“Our work to bring the electric grid into the twenty-first century created more new jobs than we anticipated in the first year of the program,” said Anne Pramaggiore, the president and chief executive of ComEd. “As the legislature intended, ComEd is making a positive economic impact as we improve service to our customers and modernize our grid to help keep Illinois competitive.”
Following the introduction of smart-grid legislation in 2011, ComEd committed to spend around $2.6 billion over ten years on modernizing infrastructure in Northern Illinois.
More than $1.3 billion of this has been earmarked for the deployment of a smart grid and installation of smart meters in 4 million homes and businesses.