Pioneering Smart Grid Energy Metrics Will Help Measure Customer Benefits In Illinois

Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) and the Citizens Utility Board (CUB) have announced that they have reached an agreement with Illinois utilities ComEd and Ameren Illinois (Ameren) to move one of the nation’s largest efforts to date ($3.2 billion) forward to track customer, including environmental, benefits from smart grid deployment plans in the state. These plans outline how each of the utilities intends to continue to upgrade their electricity network into a digital “smart” grid.

EDF and CUB worked directly with ComEd and Ameren to develop the set of new tracking mechanisms and metrics, which will be reported on annually by the utilities. This information will be used to help determine how upgrades to Illinois’ electric grid are delivering benefits to consumers. The tracking mechanisms and metrics will help measure utility performance on issues ranging from reductions in peak energy demand and increased adoption of renewable energy, such as solar power, to the uptick in use of smart energy devices and reductions in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, among others.

ComEd provided the initial reporting of 20 new tracking metrics in its annual smart grid deployment plan update filed on April 1st with the Illinois Commerce Commission. ComEd’s new tracking metrics will be tracked alongside the metrics now used by ComEd as required by the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2011. The other metrics focus on measures such as overall energy savings, utility-led efforts to conduct customer outreach and enrollment in energy conservation rebate programs.

Ameren provided notice to the Illinois Commerce Commission in its annual smart grid deployment plan update on April 1st that it will begin voluntarily reporting on a similar set of 19 new tracking mechanisms in its annual filings.

In addition, through stakeholder workshops later this year, ComEd and Ameren have agreed to continue to work with EDF and CUB to work towards the development of new and improved ways to measure how smart grid technology can help reduce GHG emissions and electrical line losses, which are harmful to both our environment and our wallets. These measures are integral to unlocking the environmental and economic benefits of smart grid technologies.

Utilities track their performance in areas such as reliability, outage restoration, system safety and satisfaction of customers with on-premise services. These new tracking mechanisms and metrics supplement these assessments by enabling the utilities to track and report where customers are realizing the benefits of electric grid improvements, and the extent to which they are participating in these opportunities. This includes measures like the number of customers who can directly access their own energy usage data and the time it takes to connect renewable energy resources, like solar power, to the electric grid.

“These new tracking mechanisms and metrics will help ComEd and Ameren ensure that their smart grid investments deliver environmental and economic benefits to customers in the form of cleaner air and reduced energy costs. EDF hopes that these tracking mechanisms and metrics will serve as models for other utilities around the country looking to modernize their aging energy infrastructure and realize the full potential of a smart, “green” electric grid,” said EDF senior regulatory attorney Raya Salter.

“A smart grid begins with smart policy,” CUB Executive Director David Kolata said. “These new tracking mechanisms and metrics will help bring the power grid into the 21st century more quickly and cost-effectively, ensuring that consumers see the benefits in the form of lower electric bills.”

EDF previously worked with the California Public Utility Commission to develop a report card and framework to critically evaluate the efficacy of California public utilities’ smart grid deployment plans.

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