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ICC lets ComEd delay roll out of smart meters

ComEd Energy Technician Phil Calderinstalls Smart Meter home Forest Park January 8 2010. | PhoBy David Boenzi~ComEd

ComEd Energy Technician Phil Calderon installs a Smart Meter at a home in Forest Park, January 8, 2010. | Photo By David Boenzi~ComEd

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Updated: January 7, 2013 7:14AM

Commonwealth Edison was granted its wish to delay rolling out so-called “smart” meters, part of its electric-transmission system upgrade, at least for now.

The Illinois Commerce Commission on Wednesday agreed to ComEd’s request to delay the rollout but will take up the issue in April, when ComEd must file a report on the smart-meter program.

Following an ICC ruling in October that ComEd said failed to let it recover costs for some parts of its $2.6 billion electric-grid modernization program, ComEd asked to delay installing additional smart meters until 2015.

A smart meter is a digital electric meter with two-way communication that lets customers control their electric use to save money, and enables ComEd to quickly identify outages.

The smart meters were to initially be installed this year, but their rollout was delayed until 2013 after the ICC on May 29 refused all of ComEd’s requested upgrade funding request. About 130,000 smart meters already installed on the West Side and west suburbs will continue operating as part of an ongoing pilot program.

In October, the ICC allowed ComEd’s way of figuring its pension assets, but denied both interest rate costs and a rate base calculation that ComEd wanted to recover the costs of the project.

ComEd is challenging the ICC orders at the Illinois Appellate Court, and CEO Anne Pramaggiore has said the utility will seek “all paths to resolution.” She took the issue to the Illinois General Assembly in an attempt to restore $100 million in yearly revenue the utility says it lacks to build the smart grid because of the ICC’s decisions.

On Nov. 21, an ICC administrative law judge proposed that ComEd be prohibited from delaying smart meters.

Consumer watchdog Citizens Utility Board said after the ruling Wednesday that CUB wants to see smart meters start going into consumers’ homes in 2013.

“The ICC has built a strong, consumer-friendly smart-grid plan, and ComEd customers get the biggest benefit if that plan is launched as soon as possible,” CUB said in a statement. “We believe that today’s decision is consistent with still moving forward in 2013.”

ComEd had proposed decreasing its electricity rates by $40 million to $50 million, but the ICC decided May 29 to cut customers’ rates by four times that, for a total of $168.6 million. New rates resulting from the May 29 ICC decision went into effect on June 1, cutting residential customers’ average monthly bills by $1.66.

In October, the ICC shrank the rate cut 21 percent to $133 million.

Customers may not have much time to appreciate their 57 cents a month reprieve because ComEd is asking for a new rate increase of 97 cents a month on the average customer’s bill starting in early 2013 to cover increasing costs of delivery, taxes, operations and maintenance. The ICC is expected to rule on that request by the end of the year.

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