News Archives: December 2011
ComEd announced Thursday that Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Joliet, Wheaton and Woodridge are the first to benefit from an infrastructure upgrade program aimed at improving outages in the suburbs.
Under a new law enacted this October, ComEd will undergo a $2.6 billion investment in the utility’s electric grid. About half of that money will be invested in smart grid and the other half will be used to upgrade the utility’s aging infrastructure. Consumers are paying for the upgrades through their electrical bills.
ComEd said it will likely take 10 years to complete its portion, and its customers will be charged an additional $3 per month to pay for the infrastructure during that time period.
Ten Republicans and one Democrat have sponsored a House bill that’s aimed to protect the nation’s critical infrastructure, including the financial services systems, healthcare, electric grid and water facilities.
Known as the the Precise Act, the Promoting and Enhancing Cybersecurity and Information Sharing Effectiveness Act of 2011, or HR 3674, would require the Department of Homeland Security to conduct an evaluation of cybersecurity risks to critical infrastructure and determine the best mitigation methods.
The legislation also would establish the National Information Sharing Organization, or NISO, a private-sector-controlled, not-for-profit organization to facilitate best practices, provide technical assistance and enable the sharing of cyber-threat information across critical infrastructure and with the federal government, while safeguarding privacy and civil liberties, according to its sponsors.
An overlooked provision in an Illinois law enacted in October would raise the state’s net metering cap to 5% from 1%, thus enabling small businesses to install more DG, Jack Darin, director of the Illinois Sierra Club, told us Friday in an exclusive interview. The move coincides with the state’s other renewable-integration initiatives, such as a carve-out in the state’s renewable portfolio standard (RPS) that by 2016 will reserve 1% of total load for DG, he said.
The law green-lighted a 10-year, $2.6 billion project that will give Commonwealth Edison and 62% of Ameren Services residential customers smart meters (SGT, Oct-27). Those meters were necessary to spur net metering in the state, which Darin said rests at 0.1% of overall load. Net metering lets power customers with qualified renewable energy systems sell excess power back to their local utility.
Equally important for sparking net metering is the cap raise, Darin said. Currently, the low ceiling has the effect of incentivizing only residential customers, he said.
In the nearly 120 years since Thomas Edison and other electricity titans showed off illuminating exhibits at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, rotary phones have morphed into mobile mini-computers, phonographs into iPods. But the electric grid that powers those devices remains more or less an antique.
“If Alexander Graham Bell was transported to today and you showed him your smart phone, he wouldn’t know what you were talking about,” said Mike McMahan, vice president of smart grid and technology at Commonwealth Edison. “If Thomas Edison was transported to today, he wouldn’t be surprised by what he saw,” in terms of generating and distributing electricity.
Now, a high-voltage version of the global movement to update the electric grid is lighting up in Illinois. The new digital systems – “smart grids” – allow rapid communication between energy producers, consumers and electric hardware to efficiently compensate for growing demand, but require thorough analysis of benefits and problems for all stakeholders.
When city services can autonomously go online and digest information from the cloud, they can reach a level of performance never before seen. First up, water systems that automatically know when it will rain and react accordingly.
With a little help from what’s called the Internet of Things, engineers are transforming cities from passive conduits for water into dynamic systems that store and manage it like the tissues of desert animals. By using the Internet to connect real-world sensors and control mechanisms to cloud-based control systems that can pull in streams from any other data source, including weather reports, these efforts enable conservation and money-saving measures that would have been impossible without this virtual nervous system.
Marcus Quigley, principal water engineer at the infrastructure engineering firm Geosyntec, has been tackling this problem using hardware from Internet of Things company ioBridge, whose Internet-connected sensors have been used in everything from location-aware home automation to tide gauges that tweet.
Starting in 2013, if Commonwealth Edison Co. doesn’t reduce the length and duration of outages each year for the next 10 years, regulators can cut into its bottom line.
The change — which comes as part of landmark smart grid legislation passed in October — makes ComEd the first investor-owned utility in the United States to tie profits to how well it performs for its customers, according to the Chicago-based Exelon Corp. unit.
Thursday, ComEd filed a road map with regulators on how it intends to improve its service and reliability. The metrics, annual goals that the utility will be graded on, are subject to approval by the Illinois Commerce Commission.
The City of Naperville invites utility customers to learn more about the Naperville Smart Grid Initiative (NSGI) at a neighborhood open house taking place from 7 to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, December 14 at Washington Junior High School, 201 N. Washington St. This informative open house will feature several stations where people can talk with NSGI Ambassadors and have their NSGI questions answered.
The NSGI is an upgrade of the City’s $360 million electric network to provide more efficient, cost-effective and reliable service to customers and empower them with more information on their energy usage. As part of the NSGI, starting in January 2012, the City will be visiting homes and businesses to replace existing electric meters with new smart meters. These digital smart meters measure energy use in near-real time and securely and safely transmit this data remotely to the City’s electric utility on a daily basis, giving customers a new level of awareness and control over their energy use. An interactive map of anticipated installation dates will be available to view on the City’s website at www.naperville.il.us/smartgrid.aspx the week of December 12.
Fourteen neighborhood open houses have been scheduled through August 2012 approximately three weeks before smart meter deployment will begin in an area of the City. These open houses will provide customers with a convenient opportunity in their neighborhood to talk one-on-one with Ambassadors and City staff about the NSGI and smart meter installation.
The Council on Competitiveness released a report this week on the state of U.S. manufacturing, its challenges and potential solutions.
U.S. Manufacturing Policies are in Disarray According to Report
U.S. policy prescriptions for manufacturing are in disarray according to Make: an American Manufacturing Movement, a new report from the Council on Competitiveness. Policymakers, the report’s authors contend, are bombarded with widely available reports and analysis that support one of three conflicting views (it is on steep decline, doing reasonably well or it is poised for growth) on the health and importance of U.S. manufacturing.
“In reality, elements of all three perspectives are likely true,” according to the authors. U.S. manufacturing remains the world’s top producer and an important part of the U.S. economy — employing more than 11 million and contributing more than $1.7 trillion to the economy. However, emerging economies are increasingly becoming a threat to U.S. competitiveness. Going forward, the U.S has the potential to capitalize on emerging marketplaces, but to achieve this the U.S. must find solutions to the challenges it faces.
The report provides five “solutions” to maintain the nation’s status as the world’s top producer, resolve its manufacturing challenges and capitalize on growing international demand:
- Enact fiscal reform, transform tax laws, regulations and other structural costs to spur investment, ramp up production, capitalize growth companies and create skilled jobs;
- Create fair and open global markets for U.S. goods and services to reduce the trade deficit and increase exports as a percentage of gross domestic product;
- Prepare the next generation of innovators, researchers and highly-skilled workers;
- Create national advanced manufacturing networks and partnerships, prioritize R&D investments and deploy new tools, technologies and facilities; and,
- Develop and deploy smart, sustainable and resilient energy, transportation, production and cyber infrastructures.
It’s been nearly a year now since modern electric vehicles really hit the mainstream with the release of the Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf to complement offerings from niche automakers like Tesla. A year on, what’s changed in the EV sector? Well, not a whole lot, but the market is growing.
Battery performance remains a big issue for potential EV buyers. But range anxiety may be waning, as the BEV Leaf had outsold the PHEV Volt by nearly 3,000 units as of October. In either case, supporting infrastructure is a key to success, in the form of available high-voltage charging stations to limit downtime for drivers. We must say, however, that vast networks of charging stations are likely not the end-all solution to boosting EV popularity.
We’ve covered a number of interesting new EV initiatives from around the country this year. Let’s take a look back, as they are all good case studies concerning the rollout of newfangled infrastructure tech.
Chicago’s first charging station capable of powering up an electric vehicle within half an hour has been installed at Midway International Airport.
The charging station at 61st Street and Cicero Avenue at the airport’s cellphone waiting lot is the first of 73 such stations scheduled for installation in Chicago and the suburbs by year’s end. A second is scheduled for installation this week at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
The installations are significant because studies have shown that consumers want to be able to charge electric vehicles within minutes, not hours, and that electric vehicles are unlikely to be adopted widely if such chargers aren’t readily available and conveniently located.