CHICAGO (February 2, 2016) – Today, at a community event attended by more than 200 state public officials and leaders from several community organizations, ComEd showcased its plans to build its first “Community of the Future” in Bronzeville.
Smart city technologies are already being developed and piloted in neighborhoods across northern Illinois, and ComEd plans to integrate new and future technology in one community to create a “Community of the Future” – a neighborhood in which residents and businesses enjoy savings, sustainability, and innovative products that make their lives easier. Other products and services a Community of the Future might offer include energy efficiency programs, sensor-enabled traffic and parking, and a host of other innovations.
“The Smart Grid Law allowed ComEd to make a $2.6 billion investment to create a smart grid, and we are now building on this foundation to develop innovative products and solutions that will deliver value to our customers,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd. “We see the Community of the Future as the next generation of our smart grid work – a way to tailor the grid so that it’s customized and community based, more dynamic and capable of solving specific customer needs at the community level.”
The foundation for building a Community of the Future in Bronzeville is already set, thanks to the Smart Grid Law in 2011. The entire community has received smart meters, which allow for two-way communication between the utility and customer. Smart switches, which help improve power reliability by rerouting electricity when an outage occurs, have been deployed in the area. The community offers a diverse range of customers and load types, and it is home to critical public infrastructure such as hospitals and police headquarters.
The backbone to the Community of the Future concept is the development of a microgrid – a small power grid that connects to the main grid or can operate independently. Microgrids help improve grid resilience and security by lowering the impact of power outages due to severe weather, security, or other disruptions.
ComEd received two grants from the U.S. Department of Energy to explore microgrid technology, including $1.2 million to build a microgrid master controller which will connect to Illinois Institute of Technology’s existing microgrid, creating the first microgrid cluster in the world, and $4 million to design and deploy solar and battery storage technology. The microgrid demonstration project in Bronzeville will serve as a blueprint for other utility-owned microgrids around the country. It is also an important precursor to ComEd’s proposed development, via its Future Energy Plan legislation currently under consideration in Springfield, of six microgrids to protect critical public infrastructure in northern Illinois.
The journey to build a Community of the Future is already underway. ComEd has piloted programs in various communities throughout the service area, including a smart streetlights pilot in Bensenville and Lombard. Through the Community of the Future, ComEd will explore how these technologies interact with each other on the grid and the value they bring to customers and the community.
Alderman Pat Dowell adds, “Bronzeville is on the verge of a new and exciting renaissance, poised to emerge as an epicenter of innovation. We all have the opportunity to support a future of possibility and innovation in Bronzeville, and I am grateful for ComEd’s leadership and vision for making Bronzeville a Community of the Future and in ensuring that this innovation serves our entire community.”
Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy, a nonprofit organization that designs and implements smarter energy programs for low- to moderate-income communities, says, “Elevate Energy is excited to partner with ComEd on this initiative to support all communities in their efforts to build a clean energy future. This project increases access to solar energy and builds a more reliable grid, which mark an important step toward smarter energy use for all.”
ComEd’s smart cities innovation builds on its grid modernization work, which has produced record power reliability for customers the last three years. Illinois ranked second in the nation for electrical grid modernization in the 2015 Grid Modernization Index (GMI). The report, produced by the GridWise® Alliance and the Smart Grid Policy Center, evaluates and ranks states based on their progress in modernizing their electric systems with smart grid technologies. The work ComEd has completed to modernize the electric grid in northern Illinois, along with the utility’s focus on customer engagement, helped position Illinois as the second in nation.