ComEd’s new electric substations to improve reliability in Chicago nearly complete

CHICAGO, May 23, 2002 — Frank Clark, president of Commonwealth Edison, told the Chicago City Council’s Energy Committee recently that the utility continues to make strides in improving electric reliability in the city, and has locked in enough electricity supply to meet the record-setting usage that is possible this summer.

“We made a promise to you nearly three years ago to improve service to our customers and we’ve kept that promise,” Clark said, referring to company’s reliability improvement efforts in the wake of high profile power outages in the summer of 1999. “With the start of summer less than a month away, I am pleased to report that we’ve made a lot of progress in our ongoing efforts to improve reliability. The numbers of outages is down significantly, and we’re ready to build on that record of success.”

In 2001, 71 percent of ComEd’s Chicago customers had one or no outages. Overall, outages in Chicago are down 44 percent from December 1998 through April 2002.

In response to the company’s reliability problems in 1999, ComEd worked closely with the City of Chicago and the Illinois Commerce Commission to develop a reliability improvement plan with six key objectives:

* Increase capacity to enable the system to better carry more electricity;
* Perform rigorous maintenance to reduce the frequency of outages;
* Improve equipment monitoring to catch problems before they happen;
* Reorganize operations to improve the management of the system;
* Plan better to meet future needs more effectively; and
* Enhance communications to provide customers and public officials with more and faster information, especially during power outages.

As part of that effort, two new electrical substations — important equipment that converts electricity to the proper voltage for delivery to area customers — are nearing completion, and will be brought online this summer to support electric reliability in Chicago.

ComEd also has completed hundreds of projects to upgrade lines and equipment, and improved equipment monitoring to improve reliability across the city.

In addition, ComEd has ensured an adequate amount of electricity will be available to meet the electric demand on summer’s hottest days. Clark said that ComEd has 23,200 megawatts (MW) of supply under contract for the summer, more than the 21,900 it is projected to need. This reflects an increase of approximately 1.5 percent above last year’s peak of 21,574 MW — ComEd’s all-time record for peak demand set on August 9, 2001.

“We won’t be surprised by a hot and humid Chicago summer,” Clark said.

ComEd’s electricity comes primarily from two sources. The nuclear plants that were once part of ComEd are now owned by Exelon Nuclear, an affiliate of ComEd under its parent company, Exelon. ComEd has contracts that give it access to all of the generation from these plants. ComEd also has purchase agreements with Midwest Generation, which owns and operates the fleet of coal- fired generating plants formerly owned by ComEd.

ComEd officials noted that electric supply in Illinois is plentiful. More than 26,000 MW of generation is now in place to serve customers in ComEd’s Northern Illinois service territory.

For the hottest days with the highest electric usage, ComEd has developed another way to provide an additional margin of electricity supply — it pays some of its largest customers to reduce electricity usage at certain peak-usage times. This summer ComEd has more than 1,000 MW of power signed up for the voluntary programs. According to ComEd officials, this is like being able to turn on one nuclear plant on short notice.

“We believe ComEd is prepared for the summer,” Clark said. “While we are not finished improving our system, our performance is clear and convincing evidence that our reliability improvement efforts are producing results. And we will continue to improve reliability. It’s a job that is never done.”

Commonwealth Edison is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corp., one the nation’s largest electric utilities with more than $15 billion in revenues and a customer base of five million. ComEd provides service to more than 3.4 million customers across Northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population.


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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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