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Cicero smart meters part of bigger ComEd plan

Published: Friday, Dec. 13, 2013 6:16 p.m. CDT

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CICERO – Cicero power users started getting smarter by the minute this month as ComEd began the installation of its new smart meters as part of a 10-year, $2.6 billion grid modernization program.

More than 4 million smart meters will be installed in all, with 60,000 of them installed by the end of 2013. Some 6,500 will be installed in Cicero by the end of the year. Customers will receive a letter from ComEd detailing when their installation will take place, which takes about 10 minutes.

The meters are only a small part of the expansive smart grid modernization plan, ComEd spokesman John Schoen said.

“It’s part of an overall effort to modernize the electric grid,” Schoen said. “The cost goes to other improvements in the grid as well.”

The digital electric meter uses two-way radio communications to collect information on usage. It then securely transmits the usage information to ComEd through a wireless connection.

According to ComEd, the meters will provide customers with access to more information about energy through online energy-management tools that can help customers manage their electric bills.

Schoen added the new meters will eliminate the need for meter readers and estimated readings as well.

Customers can create a free online account at www.comed.com before the meters are installed. Using the My Energy Tools feature, customers can find energy-saving tips, compare energy use with neighbors and create a personal energy saving plan.

Smart meters, like standard meters, measure how much energy is used, not how it is used. ComEd is using state-of-the-art cryptographic technologies to protect against unauthorized access to a customer’s personal information. ComEd said the technology is similar to that used by global financial institutions and the Department of Defense.

A smart grid is an electricity delivery system that uses smart switches and smart meters to communicate with ComEd. Installation of these new technologies ultimately creates a stronger, more reliable electric system and provides users with better service and greater control over electricity use, according to information provided by ComEd.

ComEd said not only will the Smart Grid would lessen outages, it will allow for quicker restoration in the event it happens.

The key components of a smart grid are smart switches, smart meters, modernized substations and refurbished underground cables.

Approximately 2,500 distribution automation devices, or smart switches, are being installed, that can automatically reroute power when problems occur to improve reliability and minimize the number of customers impacted by service interruptions. Digital sensors detect a problem, then smart control devices automatically re-route power around the trouble spot, often with no noticeable interruption of service.

Two-way communications keep engineers informed about what is happening on the electric grid and enable them to intervene, according to ComEd.

Ten substations will have analog equipment upgraded to digital technology that can communicate automatically with ComEd, and a total of 4,400 miles of underground cable is being replaced or refurbished to reduce the number of storm-related service interruptions.

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