Advancing Clean Energy

The Energy System of the Future is Here Now

April 26, 2016

At its most basic, an electric grid is a vast network connecting homes and businesses with a physical network of transmission lines and utility poles that help keep the lights on. Now new technological advancements in the form of a digital network of sensors and software are letting utilities move and manage power like never before. When combined together, the physical and digital networks suddenly create a social network connecting utilities to millions of customers – and customers to each other.

The convergence of these three networks – physical, digital and social – is happening rapidly and creating a truly smart grid.  That’s because these three networks can be connected in a way that delivers value, customization, and simplicity to our customers in ways that we can now only imagine – and ways that drive a cleaner, leaner energy future.

And no one is better suited to bring the power of these networks together than an electric utility like ComEd, which has the capabilities to deploy new technologies at scale and to deliver the electricity experience our customers want.

Customers are seeing glimpses of this energy future already. For example:

  • We’ve partnered with Bidgely, an analytics company, to develop a web platform that lets customers use a computer or smart phone to see exactly how and when they use energy — all the way down to the appliance level. These customers know exactly how much power they’re drawing from their washer, dryer or refrigerators and they can adjust accordingly to save money.
  • We’re rolling out demand response programs, where customers can voluntarily reduce their energy use and save money during peak periods. ComEd is the first utility in the Midwest to offer this smart meter-enabled program to customers – the Peak Time Savings pilot program in the summer of 2015 produced nearly $400,000 in customer pay-outs.
  • We’ve also installed 800 LED smart streetlights in two Chicagoland communities – Bensenville and Lombard – which reduce energy usage by as much as two-thirds and can be dimmed or brightened automatically based on the time of day or local conditions. This is both green and smart, giving municipal leaders important public safety tools.
  • And, through important energy legislation for a clean energy future pending in the Illinois legislature, we propose to start construction of six microgrids across the Chicagoland region. These microgrids, which are small power networks that can connect to the main grid or operate independently via localized power generation, help ensure power flows continuously to crucial public infrastructure like hospitals and water systems. The first microgrid will be located in the Bronzeville community in Chicago– marking the introduction of an exciting effort to create a pilot ‘Community of the Future” in this neighborhood.

In recent years, smart phones quickly evolved to provide the basic technology upon which thousands of innovative apps continue to be built. Likewise, the smart grid ComEd is building is the foundation for an exciting new energy future, one in which customers are connected to each other and to the many valuable uses of smart grid technology, from energy savings to more energy choices to sensor-enabled lighting, parking and transportation applications.

In the coming months, ComEd will be raising awareness of and conversations about the innovation-in-action across our energy network, providing a closer look at the thinking behind them, the people and partnerships building them, and the work ahead required to make it all come together seamlessly for customers in our region.  The possibilities are endless, and ComEd is proud to be leading the way toward our clean, custom energy future.