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In 2012, Illinois began modernizing its energy grid. The investment, driven by new legislation and major utility companies throughout the state, is already starting to pay off. Among several important innovations, energy companies have been installing smart meters in homes and businesses. As a result, customers are saving millions of dollars on electricity bills each year. Additionally, the adoption of smart electric meters and more stable utility poles and power lines has made the state’s grid safer and more reliable, preventing thousands of outages each year. Continue reading to find out what lawmakers and energy companies in Illinois are doing to improve the energy grid.
Illinois Energy Policy
Compared to other U.S. states, the extent of Illinois’ power grid modernization is second only to California. That’s due, in large part, to a piece of 2011 legislation requiring energy companies to reform utility rate structures and to improve the state’s aging electricity grid. Executive director of the Citizens Utility Board, David Kolata, has praised the legislation, saying, “Illinois has had a good track record of dealing with these issues professionally and [of] making progress.” He added that despite imperfections in the state’s energy policy, “when you compare where we were in the late ’80s into the early and mid-’90s to where we are now, it’s an unqualified success.”
Smart Electric Meters
For several years, utility companies across Illinois have been creating an advanced metering infrastructure, or AMI, by installing smart meters in homes and businesses throughout the state. Since beginning the initiative, Illinois utility companies have installed over 3 million smart electric meters. These digital electricity meters allow companies to securely collect information about energy usage. Access to this information has wide-ranging economic benefits, saving approximately $1.4 billion statewide.
Customers with smart meters have several ways to reduce the cost of their monthly energy bills. Online tools use data collected from smart meters, allowing ratepayers to monitor their energy usage and reduce the cost of their utilities. Customers can also choose to participate in demand pricing programs that reward them for reducing energy use during peak hours. In one such program, over 7,000 ratepayers received bill credits of up to $63 just for opting to use less electricity during hours of high demand. As a result, Illinoisans are saving an estimated $46 million every year.
In addition to smart meters, Illinois has invested in thousands of high-tech power-switching devices known as smart switches. These devices reroute power in the event of a power surge, thereby saving energy and keeping thousands of blackouts from happening each year. According to Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd, customers are experiencing fewer and shorter power outages than at any other time in the company’s history. In fact, approximately 7.6 million power outages have been avoided since the adoption of the new power-switching devices.
Illinois’ investment in infrastructure since 2012 has already proven to be extremely beneficial to consumers and energy companies alike. But the grid’s updated technology has even farther-reaching benefits than cost savings and improved customer service. By helping customers consume less power and by preventing power surges, the state’s power grid has become cleaner and more efficient. Plus, the addition of storm-resistant utility poles, stronger power lines and modern outage detection technology, has made Illinois’ electric system safer, more resilient and more reliable than ever before.