Learning about impact of the Smart Meters on electricity use

In recent months 131,000 households and businesses in nine near west suburbs and in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood have received new Smart Meters in preparation for a pilot program to examine the impact of new technology on electricity use.

This week, ComEd kicked off a public education campaign about the program with its first informational meeting for Oak Park residents at the village’s public library.

Smart Meters are expected to help consumers monitor and reduce electricity use and their carbon footprint while helping utilities adjust distribution and eventually reduce the number and duration of power outages. The new meters are the first step toward the creation of a “smart grid,” which uses a digital system rather than a mechanical one to communicate power needs and problems along the lines.

The pilot program will run from June 1 to May 31, 2011. In early June residents will be able to log on to a new Web site to see how much power they used the previous day and how much it cost them. The site will also include ways for residents and businesses to reduce their usage, said Larry Kotewa, a senior engineer with CNT Energy, a division of the Center for Neighborhood Technology, which is working with ComEd on the project.

Smart Meters were installed well in advance of the pilot program to make sure the system is up and working, Kotewa said. The meters will send digital signals to ComEd every 30 minutes rather than having someone physically read the meter once a month. In addition, any power outage in a home will be reported back to the utility immediately.

For now, the 8,000 households with monitors will remain capped for the pilot program, said Alicia Zatkowski, senior manager of communications for ComEd.

Similar information sessions about ComEd’s pilot program will be held in the other participating towns: Bellwood, Forest Park, Melrose Park, Maywood, Broadview, Berwyn, River Forest and Hillside. The next informational meeting will be held at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Berwyn Public Library, 2701 S. Harlem Ave.

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