ComEd reduces frequency of power outages in Northbrook
Com-Ed employees with Northbrook Village President Sandra Frum (right). File photo from Com-Ed
Updated: January 21, 2013 2:34PM
NORTHBROOK — After years of a large number of power outages, frustrated residents of Northbrook are finally experiencing some relief, according to ComEd officials.
Northbrook’s electrical outages have reportedly decreased 34 percent in frequency and 92 percent in duration this year compared to last.
These Commonwealth Edison estimates are due to the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA) and investments made by ComEd this year, said Michael McMahan, ComEd’s vice president of smart grid and technology.
“The EIMA, which was passed by the General Assembly last year, is the core of the program and allows us to do what we’ve been doing,” McMahon said. “It authorized us to spend $2.6 billion during a 10-year period, about $1.3 billion on smart grid and about $1.3 billion on infrastructure.”
The EIMA also allowed ComEd to spend more than $200 million on energy infrastructure modernization on Northbrook this year alone, McMahan said. The company has had to defer the installation of smart meters, because of legislative outcomes, but has begun to implement its distribution automation plan.
“We recently filed a revised plan with the Illinois commerce commission, which was approved Dec. 5. That has the smart meter deployment schedule deferred. The first meter now will go in 2015. Then during about eight years, we’ll roll those out over our entire service territory,” McMahan said.
“The reason we did that was associated with some rate case outcomes. We just didn’t really have the revenue we expected to have, so we had to defer those… We have to have the revenue to cover the cost.”
The rate cases reduced the revenue ComEd was anticipating by about $100 million a year, McMahan noted.
However, the company has installed six automation distribution devices for the smart grid in Northbrook. These are devices that provide an alternate power source to areas that experience outages. When there is an outage, the distribution automation devices provide alternative power sources to restore service, McMahan said.
And an additional 14 devices are planned for Northbrook during the next four or five years, he added.
“The devices have allowed restoration time to be almost half this year, compared to 2011. That was a pretty tough year, I’ll give you that. But that is still a remarkable improvement,” McMahan said.
In addition, the EIMA has provided about $1.3 billion for replacement of mainline cable, he added. ComEd has about 8,700 miles of problematic cable in the system and wants to treat more than two-thirds of that over the next five years.
“It was good cable when it was put in during the ‘60s and ‘70s, but it’s getting a bit old. This year in Northbrook we replaced or refurbished about 16,000 feet, which is more than three miles, McMahan said.
The company also plans to inspect more than 3,500 wood poles. This and the other work that ComEd plans to do has led to the addition of 700 jobs this year by the company and its contractors, he added.
And the final result has led to 10,000 fewer customer interruptions this year than in 2011, McMahan noted.
Matt Morrison, assistant to Northbrook’s public works director, said that ComEd has replaced old overhead cable with cable that is stronger and more resistant to tree contact on windy days.
That occurred in the Northbrook Estates area on Keystone Avenue, west of Shermer Road, east of Western Avenue and in the general area of Illinois Road, Maple Lane and Oak Lane, he said. They were also strung on Hampton Lane, Dorian Drive and Kayjay Drive, as well as Highland Drive.
“Most of the overhead cables have only been in since mid-June and July. We’ve been blessed with some pretty decent weather and haven’t had too many storms, so we really haven’t seen the benefits yet,” Morrison said.
“But generally, overall we’ve seen fewer outages this year.”