GE has won a $200 million contract from ComEd to help modernize Chicago’s electricity grid.
Under the deal, GE (Fairfield, CT, USA) is to deploy some four million smart grids in the Chicago area between now and 2021.
ComEd (Chicago, IL, USA), the largest electricity utility in the state of Illinois, says the meters will allow customers to better manage energy usage and help it to more quickly detect power outages and restore service.
“Deploying smart meters will not only strengthen economic growth, create jobs and modernize our electric grid, but empower our customers to take more control over their energy usage,” said Anne Pramaggiore, the president and chief executive of ComEd.
“Working side by side with GE, we are able to create a modernized grid that will improve reliability, provide new ways to save energy and money and benefit the Illinois economy,” she added.
ComEd has committed to invest more than $2.6 billion over ten years in modernizing the electricity grid in Northern Illinois, with more than $1.3 billion of this earmarked for the construction of a smart grid network, including the installation of smart meters across some four million homes and businesses.
GE says the meters will facilitate two-way communication between ComEd and its customers, allowing the utility to provide customers with regular updates on energy usage and alerting it to problems automatically.
By assembling the meters in Chicago, the manufacturer also expects to create about 50 new jobs in the area as the project develops.
ComEd has stoked controversy and triggered legal wrangling after proposing to increase energy prices to pay for its infrastructure modernization.
The company insists that improvements will ultimately lead to cost savings and benefit the local economy through the creation of new jobs, but it has encountered opposition from Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, who says families cannot afford rate hikes in the current economic conditions.
So far, the utility is reported to have installed only about 130,000 smart meters as part of a pilot.