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ComEd's "Smart Switches" Reducing Service Interruptions

CHICAGO, April 30, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- ComEd submitted this month to the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) a progress report showing major accomplishments in the first year of the smart grid program, including the installation of 470 Distribution Automation devices. Distribution Automation routes power around potential problem areas, often with no noticeable interruption in service.  Installation of these devices resulted in 82,000 fewer customer power interruptions in 2012. During the severe storms that hit the Chicago area in mid-April, DA devices prevented 20,000 service interruptions.

By remotely monitoring and controlling grid operations, Distribution Automation (DA) devices, or smart switches, are a central feature of smart grid technology and ComEd's effort to reduce the frequency and duration of outages.

Working at an accelerated pace in 2012 as a result of the smart grid law enacted in 2011, ComEd installed more than 470 DA devices. Over the course of the 10-year grid modernization program, ComEd is increasing the number of customers served by DA from 55 to nearly 90 percent.  The utility invested a total of $32 million in the installation of DA in 2012 and is increasing the investment to over $44 million this year.

"Just as today's smart phone technology merged the power of computers with cellular phones, smart grid technology merges the power of computers with the electric grid," said Mike McMahan, vice president of smart grid and technology, ComEd.

"With distribution automation, if a tree were to fall on a utility pole resulting in an interruption, far fewer customers would be impacted because it enables us to better isolate the damaged section," explained McMahan. "DA introduces a self-healing capability to the electric grid by allowing us to resolve issues before customers might even be aware of them, and that has a profoundly positive impact on people's daily lives."

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