Regulate, Yes, but Get 'Smart Grid' Going
More frequent reviews of electric rates. A better system for monitoring and providing electricity.
Most of the parties involved would agree that the argument over utility legislation in Illinois boils down to those two considerations. But all would quickly acknowledge, too, that the issue is not nearly that simple.
ComEd says it needs the money provided through this legislation to support its investment in state-of-the-art "smart grid" technology that gives consumers more control over their electricity usage and enables the utility to respond more quickly to problems in its network.
Gov. Pat Quinn and other opponents contend the law, which Quinn vetoed over the summer, is a smoke screen obscuring regulatory revisions that would guarantee rate increases to ComEd and other utilities and weaken oversight.
And in fact, it's important to note that an upheaval in the regulatory review process doesn't have to be tied to upgrading ComEd's infrastructure. Each function could have been the subject of its own specific legislation. But linked they are, and as it happens, it's just as well. Both aspects of the legislation are valid, the one -- smart grid -- almost critically necessary, and the other -- a revision of the rate-review process -- at least reasonable.
The case for smart grid hardly needs to be made. Even ComEd's most persistent critics acknowledge that smart grid, a wholesale technology upgrade that would directly affect every ComEd customer, is beneficial to consumers, businesses in particular, and critical for the utility to improve its response to outages. …