In a town hall meeting where the presenters outnumbered the attendees, ComEd officials said that summer infrastructural upgrades in in the village, particularly those that seem to happen for no apparent reason.
Trustee Alex Olejniczak, whose second district has borne the brunt of the village’s blackouts, attributed the meeting’s low attendance to marked improvements in service reliability.
“But we’re not going to take the pressure off of you,” Olejniczak told ComEd officials.
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Blizzards and microbursts aside are those outages that occur in clear weather. Bill Frederick, reliability engineer for ComEd’s south suburban region, said the utility giant has invested $10 billion in its electric system region wide over the past decade, reducing power outages by 34 percent.
Following the June 4 microburst, 99 percent of outages in Oak Lawn were restored within 24 hours; and approximately 97 percent of those were restored within four hours, Frederick said.
According to ComEd’s reliability report for Oak Lawn delivered at the town hall meeting at on Dec. 6:
- 314 trees were removed during the last cycle trim, or 29 of 34 locations cleared at the village’s request for municipal tree replacement and strategic tree removal;
- ComEd installed fault indicators, which help identify problems on a line and help reduce outage times, on an electric line that serves approximately 685 Oak Lawn customers. The work was completed on July 11.
- The company also replaced approximately 500 feet of underground cable between Kostner Ave. and Kildare Ave., to help improve reliability and reduce the number of outages in the area. The work was completed on Sept. 11.
ComEd will begin additional work in January as part of its implementation of implementation of the Energy Infrastructure and Modernization Act bill enacted by the Illinois General Assembly.
According to ComEd, the company plants to invest $1.3 billion to strengthen the existing power grid serving northern Illinois by replacing thousands of miles of cable and poles, and upgrading substations and equipment.
Another $1.3 billion to digitize the electric system, including distribution automation devices that will automatically reroute power around a problem; and install a smart meter to every home and utilize other Smart Grid technologies.
Opponents of the “smart grid bill” including Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, and the Illinois Commerce Commission have criticized the “smart grid bill” as gutting existing regulation. They also criticized the bill "as being little more than a giveaway to utility companies," Michael Piskar reported in Progress Illinois.
ComEd plans to roll out the system-wide upgrades, which includes one-third of northern Illinois, over the next decade.
Plans are still being formulated for the first phase of upgrades in 2012, and ComEd officials said once they know where and when those improvements would be taking place, they'd be letting municipalities know.
Unlikely to make the list is burying overhead lines due to underground contamination concerns.
It’s also cost prohibitive, said Katie Maier, external affairs manager for ComEd.
“If we go underground every single residence will have to rewire and that’s expensive,” Maier said. “People need to keep that in mind.”
Maier added that its usually developers and customers that pick up the costs of power line burial in new subdivisions and private property.
“If a wire goes down you can put it back up,” she added. “It’s quicker to fix. If it’s underground you have to find it.”
So how do the south suburbs, particularly Oak Lawn, get in line ahead of its neighbors to the north?
“We work in the south region and we also live here,” said Jose Andrade, ComEd external affairs director and Maier’s boss. “We’re always championing our region. I hate to see my region last in anything.”
ComEd will be presenting its reliability report before the entire on Jan. 10, 2012.