The Illinois Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee last month passed SB 1879, known as “The Energy Plan for Illinois’ Future,” out of committee. The comprehensive bill expands support for renewable energy in Illinois and ensures that energy consumers and the state economy will continue to benefit from affordable renewable power, a more secure and resilient grid and future energy innovation.
“We thank the Committee for advancing SB 1879, which is a bridge to a smarter energy future,” said ComEd senior vice president for Customer Operations, Val Jensen, who testified before the committee. “This package of investments and programs will build on the foundation of the Smart Grid that we have been laying since the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act was enacted in 2011. It also responds to the demand from our customers for more choice and greater control over their energy.”
SB 1879 places a high priority on strengthening the security and resiliency of the grid by allowing ComEd to invest $300 million in the construction of six microgrids. Small power grids operating within a defined boundary, microgrids can connect to the main grid or function independently, reinforcing power during extreme weather or other events that threaten critical infrastructure.
“As we strengthen the reliability and the efficiency of the grid through our Smart Grid advancements, it makes sense to further reinforce the security and resiliency of the power system to withstand unexpected challenges,” said Michelle Blaise, ComEd’s senior vice president of Technical Services and chief engineer. “The locations identified for the proposed microgrids are integral to healthcare, homeland security, transportation and water services and collectively, they serve a diverse range of communities throughout the region,” she added.
“The ability to keep power flowing to critical infrastructure, such as hospitals and water treatment facilities during an extreme weather event or a major emergency is vital to the safety and well-being of residents and entire communities,” said Gary W. Schenkel, executive director, Office of Emergency Management and Communications, City of Chicago. “The microgrid pilot that ComEd is proposing will play an essential role in emergency management planning efforts and position our region to better withstand, and recover from, major threats to our safety and security.”
ComEd’s proposal to strengthen the resiliency and security of the electrical grid system with a microgrid pilot program is an investment in the future of Illinois communities, according to Ken Bouche, COO at Hillard Heintze, one of the nation’s leading investigation and security firms.
“Microgrids can help ensure rapid recovery from a disruptive weather event or unexpected security challenge,” said Bouche. “We commend ComEd’s leadership in helping to make Illinois a safe place to live and work.”
Sponsored by State Senator Kimberly A. Lightford (D-Maywood), State Representative Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) and State Rep. Ed Sullivan (R-Mundelein), the legislation will also create at least 400 full-time equivalent jobs in Illinois, in addition to the 3,600 positions supported by the Smart Grid program, including positions at the utility and its contractors and indirect positions.
“Our employees have been proud to play an important role in the smart grid build out since the program began,” said Michael T. Carrigan, president, Illinois AFL-CIO. “We look forward to supporting the continued evolution and expanding capabilities of this new modern grid serving our region.”
ComEd’s Smart Energy Plan legislation would also establish Illinois as a leader for a cleaner, greener energy future by ensuring the integration of renewable energy, including community solar projects.
Additional features of the legislation include: the allocation of an additional $50 million in financial assistance for utility customers in need; the expansion of energy efficiency programs to reduce energy waste and increase customer savings; the construction of 5,000 electric vehicle charging stations aimed at jumpstarting the Illinois electric vehicle market; refinements to Illinois’ existing renewable energy portfolio standard; and a new demand-based rate design that will allow for the equitable sharing of grid costs.