Driving Innovation

ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez: Securing a clean and resilient energy future

December 10, 2020

Picture above: Joe Dominguez at the ComEd Icebox Derby race day event, 2019

Guest post from ComEd CEO Joe Dominguez ​

It isn’t enough for our energy future to be clean and resilient. It’s also critical that the transition to clean energy is equitable for all families and businesses. In a virtual Q&A with the Executives’ Club of Chicago, I recently shared my thoughts on what it will take to expand clean energy options and electrify transportation and other sectors as our communities emerge from the pandemic. 

Joe Dominguez joined by moderator and Chicago KPMG Office Managing Principal Linda Imonti during virtual Q&A

Here are some highlights from our discussion. For the full video, click here.

Powering homes and businesses during COVID-19

At the start of the pandemic, one moment that stands out is when we scheduled a phone call with all ComEd employees to explain what we knew of COVID-19 and the steps ComEd was taking to respond. Our field folks understood, in that critical moment, we needed to keep the lights on for our four million customers. I think that’s emblematic of the culture we have here at ComEd. They all believe in the mission, and that’s what makes this job so great.

ComEd employee working on the frontlines during the pandemic

Achieving record reliability

Our performance is the best it has been in our 100-plus year history. Investments and operational improvements made to the grid continue to deliver fewer and shorter power outages for northern Illinois residents and businesses. Not only this year are we tracking the best performance ComEd has ever had but, at the end of this year, we’ll be the best-performing utility in America.

Being there for customers when they need it most

ComEd’s strong reliability is also reflected in our customer satisfaction. We know this time is difficult for so many of our customers, who may be experiencing health or economic challenges, and we want to be there to help them navigate the support available to them. To do that, ComEd has suspended disconnections, waived new late payment charges and reconnection fees and is making sure customers understand the available financial assistance programs. 

Tackling climate change

We’re seeing storm conditions we’ve never seen before. For example, the derecho in August was the worst storm we ever had in the company’s history. ComEd’s effective response and smart grid investments since 2012 – such as technologies that automatically detect outages and reroute power around problem areas – helped ComEd restore service to half a million customers in record time and avoid many more outages that would have occurred in a storm this severe. Climate change is a reality for the middle part of this country, whether it’s a polar vortex, flooding or derechos. We’ve got to get after it, and we’ve got to make improvements to the system to make it more resilient.

Damage from derecho storm

Electrifying transportation

I’ve been in Chicago for a couple of years and like to joke that at least one year of my time here has been stuck in traffic. Chicago has the third-worst air quality in the nation in terms of new respiratory health illnesses. This is an area where ComEd could play a big role in converting some of the heating stock in buildings, industrial processes and helping the Chicago Transit Authority and others electrify their fleet. Leading by example, ComEd plans to electrify 30% of its fleet by 2025 and hopes to have 50% of its fleet electric by 2030.

Creating opportunities for diverse suppliers

One of the things that we want to make sure of is that jobs and the economic opportunities created by the transformation of electrification are going to be felt in communities that need it.  Last year, we invested approximately $2 billion into the system, and 40% of that was with businesses owned by women and people of color.

Achieving Chicagoland’s clean energy goals and COVID-19 recovery

It’s evident, now more than ever, that there is a connection between air quality issues and underlying health problems. COVID-19 has amplified the disparities that exist in our under-resourced communities, especially communities of color. Beneficial electrification is a critical strategy to improve air quality in our communities, realize substantial, lasting emissions reductions and tackle climate change.

Students during the virtual STEM Home Labs program

Developing a feeder pool of talent

For more than seven years, ComEd has provided year-round programming to engage the next generation of local STEM talent and increase diversity in those fields, including the ComEd Solar Spotlight events during Black History Month and Hispanic Heritage Month, and the ComEd Icebox Derby. To safely bring STEM education to students during the COVID-19 pandemic, ComEd launched its STEM Home Labs, the first-ever virtual program to provide Chicagoland students with STEM engagement at home. The excitement that we see in these kids is just amazing. Once you pique their interest, the rest of it is just trying to line up the individuals with the opportunities.