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Transformation: Making The Electric Grid Smart

Transformation: Making The Electric Grid Smart

When a violent windstorm struck the Chicago area in July 2011, it left a lot of destruction in its wake – and 904,000 ComEd customers without power. The energy company struggled to respond effectively.

“It was a wakeup call for both us and decisionmakers that something very significant had to change,” said Sheila Owens, vice president of economic and business development at ComEd.

The storm and its aftermath set in motion an effort to build support for upgrading the electric grid for northern Illinois and Chicago.

“The effort was not just to change the law or to change the relationship,” said Tom O’Neill, senior vice president and general counsel of ComEd parent company Exelon. “We had to change the mindset of how people saw the utility.”

Three months after the storm, Illinois passed the Smart Grid Law, which enabled the company to make needed investments to strengthen and modernize the grid. It included technology that would meaningfully improve service reliability and bring the grid into the 21st Century.

“Making the smart grid ‘smart’ through automation has really resulted in significant improvement in reliability and fewer customer outages,” said Michelle Blaise, senior vice president of technical services for ComEd.

Delivering on the smart grid promise took an extraordinary act of collaboration – not only across by the more than 6,000 employees across the company, but with public officials, and community leaders.

“We had some issues [in] one of our subdivisions, where they were losing power constantly,” said West Chicago Mayor Ruben Pineda. “Now…through the community, we’re about 99.9 percent without problems, and the few problems that we have, have been…very brief – a blip.”

The six-year smart grid program also gave the local economy a much-needed boost in the form of new jobs creation and investment.

“ComEd has helped United Scrap Metal transform our company from 20 employees to over 400 team members,” said Marsha Serlin, founder and CEO of United Scrap Metal.

See ComEd’s smart grid transformation by watching the video here: https://poweringlives.comed.com/transformation-making-the-electric-grid-smart/

On Friday, ComEd hosted a graduation ceremony for the largest graduating class of CONSTRUCT, a nine-week job training program aimed at getting more diverse candidates into local construction and energy jobs.

CONSTRUCT, organized by ComEd in conjunction with 38 construction industry companies, two local utilities, and eight social service agencies, offers participants the information and guidance needed to compete for entry-level construction and project management jobs in construction and energy-related fields

“Jobs are the lifeblood of our communities, providing them with economic strength and vitality. We understand the importance of being a local employer and we are proud to offer a pathway to our industry for people of our communities,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO of ComEd.  “We applaud the 2018 graduates and look forward to their participation in the construction workforce of the future.”

The 2018 CONSTRUCT class is the sixth group to go through the program since its inception in 2013. Career guidance, life skills training, and practical education about the construction industry are part of the program, as well as increased knowledge of requirements for entering construction-related fields successfully. The 2018 curriculum was updated with courses focused on the growing need for project management skills in the Construction industry, along with additional courses in high-rise construction.  Additional coursework related to renewable energy, including solar, was added in 2017.

CONSTRUCT offers instruction and access to special sessions where students can hear from and meet company representatives. There is the opportunity to job shadow, and to attend a career fair to learn about a range of potential job opportunities in the industry. To date, more than 400 students have participated in the program, including the 109 new participants this year. The success and continued growth of this program is due in great measure to the construction industry companies that are looking to hire local, diverse candidates to join their workforce.

Participating companies include: Intren, Labor organizations – IBEW Locals 9, 15, 134, 196 and Chicago Area Laborers, Nicor Gas, Peoples Gas, ABB, Inc., Aldridge, Ardmore Roderick, Builders Association, Burling Builders, “D” Construction, Inc., David Mason + Associates, d’Escoto, Inc., Electric Conduit Construction, Environmental Design, Inc., F.H Paschen, Groundhog Utility Construction, HBK Engineering, Henkels & McCoy, John Burns Construction Co., KDM Engineering, Lindblad Construction, LiveWire, Magellan Development Group, James McHugh Construction, Meade, Midwest Access Solutions, MJ Electric, MZI Group, Inc., Nash Brothers Construction Company, Inc., NPL Construction, Olenick & Associates, Osmose Utilities Services, Inc., PMI Energy Solutions, Primera Engineers, Rabine Group, The BarTech Group, Trice Construction Company, United Scrap Metal, V3 Companies and Trinidad Construction. ​​

“All the contractors, the companies involved, you just don’t meet these people every day; it’s priceless,” said Dexter Allison, a 2014 graduate of the program, whose sons Damier and Dexter, Jr., are part of the 2018 program. “For our family, it’s been the opportunity of a lifetime.”

“I learned a lot throughout the program, but I gained the most confidence from my job shadowing experience,” said Gregory Rounds.  “I’m really excited to go out there and find a job that I really love, that I can make a career out of.”

Understanding the need to help knock down barriers to entry for construction-related fields, CONSTRUCT launched in May 2013 out of a partnership between ComEd, Intren and the labor unions. What began with ComEd, 10 companies and three social service agencies has grown to include Illinois’ other major utilities – Nicor Gas, Peoples’ Gas, 38 companies and eight social service agencies.

To complete the program, participants must attend at least 95 percent of the full-day classes and take the select, required tests. Upon completion of the program, participants can choose any number of career paths, from applying to work with the participating companies and satisfying any applicable union requirements, to applying to work with ComEd or employers in other sectors.

While completion of the program does not guarantee a job, individuals who complete the program successfully are trained to be qualified, knowledgeable, and ready to compete for construction jobs in Illinois.

Anyone interested in applying should contact the agencies directly. The agency contact numbers are:

ASPIRA of Illinois
773-252-0970

Austin Peoples Action Center

773-378-8760

Chicago Urban League

773-285-5800

National Latino Education Institute

773-247-0707, ext. 223

Quad County Urban League

630-851-2203, ext. 222

St. Sabina’s Employment Resource Center

773-783-3760

SER Jobs for Progress

773-542-9030

YWCA of Metropolitan Chicago

773-955-3100

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Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is a unit of Chicago-based Exelon Corporation (NYSE: EXC), the nation’s leading competitive energy provider, with approximately 10 million customers. ComEd provides service to approximately 3.9 million customers across northern Illinois, or 70 percent of the state’s population. For more information visit ComEd.com, and connect with the company on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

ComEd and Illinois Clean Job Coalition Celebrate $2.5 Billion in Customer Savings; Future Energy Jobs Act Expands Energy Efficiency Programs and Savings

CHICAGO (June 28, 2017) — ComEd’s Energy Efficiency Program has excelled to new heights. To date, ComEd customers have saved a record-breaking $2.5 billion through energy efficiency programs and will save even more with a new plan to be filed under the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) that will nearly double savings for customers and reduce electricity use in Illinois by 21 percent by 2030.

Today ComEd, along with members of the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition, celebrated the milestone that has led to ComEd’s recent ranking as one of the top 10 most energy-efficient utilities in the nation by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy (ACEEE). The celebration took place at Shedd Aquarium, which has saved nearly 1.5 million kWh and $131,000 through ComEd’s Energy Efficiency Program.

ComEd also announced it will file on Friday with the Illinois Commerce Commission a new program that will provide energy efficiency funding of $350 million per year for each of the next four years.

The expanded energy efficiency funding is a key provision of FEJA, passed by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Rauner last year. Through FEJA, which went into effect this month, ComEd’s investments in energy efficiency programs will almost double by 2030. Significant funding will be provided to grow existing programs for residential and business customers, such as product rebates, energy assessments, weatherization offerings and retrofitting initiatives. There also will be significant funding for low-income energy efficiency programs and research and development of new and innovative products and services.

“Through FEJA, one of the nation’s best performing energy efficiency programs will  get even better with more funding and innovation, bringing even greater value and savings to our customers,” said Fidel Marquez, senior vice president, Governmental & External Affairs, ComEd.

Energy efficiency investments made through FEJA also will create thousands of clean energy jobs through expanded programs and energy innovation, while also preserving low rates and creating a competitive economic advantage for Illinois.

“About 85,000 people in Illinois work in the field of energy efficiency. Those people are in cities across Illinois, including in the low-income communities that we serve,” said Anne Evens, CEO of Elevate Energy. “The Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) will push that number higher, as more customers and more types of facilities will be encouraged to take advantage of energy efficiency.”

“Illinois already enjoys some of the lowest electricity bills in the Midwest because of energy efficiency, and the Future Energy Jobs Act expands on that, establishing one of the nation’s most ambitious efficiency programs,” said Dave Kolata, executive director of the Citizens Utility Board (CUB). Residential customers will enjoy at least $4 billion in lower electric bills over the lifetime of the law, which also includes important safeguards to cap any cost impact on consumers, he said.

Shedd Aquarium has committed to reducing their energy consumption in half by 2020. Over the last four years they have conducted a number of sustainable projects, including: installed of 913 solar panels on the roof of the aquarium, retrofitted more than 1,000 light fixtures with LED lightbulbs and most recently, installed a one-megawatt lithium ion battery storage system to offset its consumption of energy from local power plants.

“Shedd Aquarium is the perfect place to celebrate the program’s $2.5 billion milestone, as they demonstrate what can be accomplished by investing in sustainable and energy-efficient business practices,” said Marquez.  In addition, to help jumpstart customer savings, ComEd gave away 250 energy efficiency products to customers visiting the Aquarium, including smart thermostats, power cords, and more.

For more information on the ComEd Energy Efficiency Program, visit ComEd.com/HomeSavings for residential customers and ComEd.com/BizSavings for business customers.