Gov. Quinn Vetoes 'Smart Grid' Legislation; Lawmakers React
Governor's veto spurs Garrett, May, Nekritz and Biss to pursue tighter screws on ComEd.
When ComEd appeared Monday before the Highland Park City Council for the third time since June 27 to address reliability issues, its advocacy for the smart grid legislation--previously prevalent--was missing.
One reason the ComEd’s “smart grid” legislation may not have come up is because Gov. Pat Quinn vetoed the bill, which had an estimated cost to ratepayers of $2.6 billion, hours earlier. Lawmakers could override Quinn's veto when they return in late October.
Highland Park officials took up the issue later that day during their council meeting. Mayor Nancy Rotering wrote last month in Patch that the hearing, which featured ComEd executives, would be much anticipated in light of the utility's push for Illinois Senate Bill 1652 and its poor service record.
Holding ComEd's feet to the fire
Though Councilman Steve Mandel is an advocate of technological advances, he wants ComEd to have a larger stake in the investment.
“We have to hold ComEd’s feet to the fire to make sure they have as much skin in the game as we do,” Mandel said. “They need to put up the money that is needed to bring our infrastructure into this century."
Some local members of the Illinois General Assembly, like Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Lake Forest) as well as Reps. Elaine Nekritz (D-Northbrook) and Daniel Biss (D-Evanston), were pleased with the action. None of them voted for the bill.
State Rep. Karen May (D-Highland Park), who originally introduced the legislation and voted for it, sees an opportunity for improvement in light of the issues that arose after the summer’s severe rainstorms knocked out power to thousands of area residents.
“This gives us an opportunity to create a better bill,” May said. “I hope the veto doesn’t kill the concept of smart grid technology or infrastructure improvement. All the storms made it perfectly clear we need to improve the infrastructure to keep the lights on.”
Garrett, Biss and Nekritz are already talking about changes they want to see.
Less returns, more accountability
Garret insists there must be reduced potential returns for ComEd while its accountability should increase. She also wants to see additional infrastructure improvements.
“The return on equity will be reduced,” Garrett said, referring to the measure of ComEd’s profits as regulated through the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC). “Performance levels and other accountability measures will have to be included.”
Biss has continually objected to provisions in the legislation that ease the regulatory burden on ComEd and do not require sufficient accountability. He has advocated for penalties too expensive for the company to afford.
“The rates have to be more regulated, and realistic benchmarks [for performance] need to be there,” Biss said. “We need a clear plan for ComEd to achieve those benchmarks. There is no margin for tinkering.”
Nekritz wants to make sure regulatory and liability requirements are stiffer.
“At the top of my list are increased liability standards,” she said. “The penalties must be more forceful. I’m also concerned about the role the ICC plans in overseeing smart grid.”
What most concerns May are the pockets of homes that often experience power outages even in good weather. According to ComEd engineer Jack Mertens, such power outages have affected 43 percent of the homes in Highland Park.
“I would like to see ComEd fix this,” May said. “They must, and I underline must, fix the reliability for some of these pockets.”
May indicated her office received a list of the areas from the utility and planned to monitor the situation.