As Chicagoans transition from the fall season into the winter months, our energy usage increases. Battling the brutal weather in this town is no joke and as the cost of living continues to rise, it is important to find efficient ways to save on our utility bill.
ComEd is leading the charge by bringing smart programs for their Illinois and Northern Indiana customers. In the last few years, the Exelon owned company has made it their mission to be everywhere, leaving a blueprint throughout various municipalities, of community engagement and continuous ways to utilize smart technology to benefit consumers.
The Chicago Defender wanted to see how effective some of the programs are that ComEd offers to its customers from the small business owners and non-profit organizations to residential consumers. The Chicago Defender had a chance to talk with some key individuals who’ve benefited from the Peak Savings Time, Smart Meter, and Energy Efficiency programs.
Bronzeville’s West Point Baptist Church is one of the oldest African American churches on the South Side of Chicago. Annie Russell is the trustee chairperson and was encouraged by a fellow trustee to check out ComEd’s Energy Management program which has made a difference in the church’s expenses. She said, “We’ve seen a reduction in our ComEd bill which is the first thing. The second thing is that we have energy efficient light controls in the church which is one of things that has reduced our bill. By following ComEd’s recommendations, we’ve substantially reduced the usage of the extension cords and electrical strips in the building. That was causing a lot of use of energy,” Russell said.
Located on 36th and Cottage Grove, the church maintains several buildings making it an expensive pro- cess. This type of program is one that she would highly recommend to other organizations trying to find ways of saving on energy and costs.
“We have old buildings so utilities are a big expense. How we can save on this portion and use this money for something else? Basically, we’ve been able to divert some of the funds that we’ve saved by being on this program to some of the ministries’ activities outside of the church,” She said. “It allows us to do more because the church is based on helping other people, not just in-house but also outside. That has been a significant process as far as we’re concerned.”
ComEd is pushing forward with the implementation of the smart grid.
Former State Representative, Marlow Colvin has been with ComEd for the last three years as the VP of Governmental Affairs and discusses maintaining the old electrical grid with the least cost. With the grid being more than 100 years old, repairs are made to keep it functional. So as communities in Illinois and Northern Indiana continue to grow, he said, the demands for safe, reliable and affordable electricity continually flows. The challenges of doing that economically was proving to be challenging.
Colvin said, “As a result of the General Assembly contemplation, ComEd was able to tag the Electric Infrastructure Modernization Act that allows ComEd to invest with confidence and reliability to recover some $2.6 billion in updating and upgrading smart grids. That didn’t come easy. The General Assembly placed a lot of demands on the company that we would improve reliability, create jobs, build training centers and would teach the new generation of electric utility workers our prime work in our industry. We would also invest dollars to low income families who would be faced with the challenge of that $2.6 billion.”
In their goal to make good on their commitment to both Illinois legislators and community groups, the company fulfilled their goals before the project- ed deadline. “I am proud to say that ComEd delivered in all of those promises. In fact, we have greatly exceed- ed in those promises. As result of our great modernization, ComEd has add- ed more than 4500 jobs,” he said.
“We invested $50 million over the five-year life of the program to help senior citizens, low income families, veterans and non-profit organizations
who are struggling to meet their energy bills with direct assistance.”
One of the company’s most successful residential features is the Peak Savings Time program which allows consumers to save during usage at the highest usage time—typically between 11am to 7pm during the summer. ComEd customer, Daniel Anthony, maintains a busy schedule as a bank associate and was grateful when he enrolled in the program.
“I was a bit apprehensive about joining because I didn’t like the re- minder of my usage, but it’s ended up being a great benefit. While I was at work, I forgot to adjust my thermostat and on a hot summer day, I received an alert saying I was eligible for Peak Time Savings and asked if I would like for ComEd to adjust my thermostat”? Anthony said. “I clicked ‘yes’ and then it alerted me that it was adjusted and lowered. I think it was beneficial and I’m happy with the program.”
The Smart Ideas Energy Efficiency Program has helped small business owner, Kiela Upton-Smith and her husband, a retired fireman who own a home in the Bronzeville neighborhood. Smith first heard about the program at a local CAPS meeting and eventually after having a conversation with a ComEd field representative at the “National Night Out” community event. Immediately, they scheduled an appointment at the Smith’s home and a ComEd associate began to assess their home.
“We live in a two-flat and he was able to do both units on the same day which was great. He replaced all of our incandescent bulbs. In our bathrooms, the designers built it where we have the globe bulbs and in our upstairs bathroom we had eight and downstairs we had four bulbs,” She said. “I’m always screaming at my kids, ‘Turn the lights down in the bathroom!’. They were burning eight bulbs at a time. They replaced a programmable thermostat in both units which was great because I forget to turn down the temperature down.”
In addition, ComEd changed the aerators in both the Smith’s bathroom and kitchen sinks, where they witnessed an automatic difference in the savings on both water and gas bills. The programs the company offers are making a difference in various ways behind the legislative powers that be, technology upgrades, small business and non-profit organizations—the results are having a domino effect of savings.
Smith happily adds, “They’ve al- ready went to my mom’s house, an- other friend’s house and I’ve already recommended this to my kid’s school principal. I realized that in tiny ways, we’ve already paid for it already. It’s just a good thing – who doesn’t want to save money, right?”