ComEd Training Facility Construction Underway

Lee Edwards | 4/29/2015, 1:52 p.m.
ComEd has begun construction on a new smart meter/grid training facility that will allow invaluable hands-on training opportunities for its ...
ComEd Senior Vice-President of Governmental and External Affairs, Fidel Marquez, announced that construction was underway for a new $25 million training facility for ComEd electrical utility employees located at 3536 S. Iron St. Photo by Lee Edwards

ComEd has begun construction on a new smart meter/grid training facility that will allow invaluable hands-on training opportunities for its employees. The new $25 million structure is located at 3536 S. Iron St. in Chicago and will cover nearly 190,000 sq. ft. once completed in 2016.

A smart meter is a digital electric meter that securely sends electricity-usage information to ComEd as part of its smart grid. A smart grid is an electricity delivery system enhanced with digital technologies that detect problems on the electric system and notifies ComEd in order to help eliminate estimated bills, reduces operation costs, and helps decrease the frequency and duration of power outages.

“[The] facility [is] designed as an education and training center for ComEd’s personnel and will feature 51,000 sq. ft. of indoor training [and] 138,000 sq. ft. of outside training yard,” said Fidel Marquez, senior vice-president, governmental and external affairs, ComEd. “It will also include a substation and math training areas so that our workers are smarter, more skilled and better prepared to perform the work needed in the future. Thousands of ComEd electrical workers will pass through this facility each year to improve their knowledge and training to help modernize the electrical grid.”

The training facility will be the second of its kind to be built by ComEd in Illinois; the first was built in Rockford, Ill., in 2013.

Ninety percent of the facility’s construction sub-contracts were awarded to local minority and women owned business enterprises (MWBEs) according to Marquez. ComEd will hire 40 full time employees to work at the center.

Additionally, ComEd in partnership with the City of Chicago and Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has developed an after school vocational training program that will be facilitated at the training facility. The program, the first of its kind by ComEd, encourages CPS high school juniors and seniors to seek careers in the utility work force while training them on Com Ed’s system.

Marquez announced, too, that ComEd is supporting Senate Bill 1879 (SB 1879) which, if passed, would build upon the smart grid foundation.

The synopsis of SB 1879 states:

Amends the Public Utilities Act. Provides that the Illinois Commerce Commission shall issue a report evaluating whether the provisions of the Act are sufficient to allow consideration and, where appropriate, implementation of technological and other innovations that benefit electric utility customers. Provides for repeal of the provisions on January 1, 2017. Effective immediately.

“This legislation [supports] Com Ed’s future energy plan… [it] will expand access to renewable energy, increase energy efficiency, add resiliency to the current system and meet the growing demand by consumers for more choice and personalized service,” said Marquez.

ComEd plans to invest in the construction of six “micro grids”, allocate $50 million in financial assistance to utility customers in financial need, and begin the construction of 5,000 electrical vehicle charging stations which would produce over 400 new jobs in total upon the passage of SB 1879 according to Marquez.

Micro-grids operate within a defined boundary that connect to the main grid but function independently. They also reinforce power during extreme weather conditions that threaten critical electric utility infrastructures.

Marquez cites that thanks to the passage of Senate Bill 1652 (SB 1652) by Illinois’ 97th General Assembly in 2011, which allowed for the creation of its smart grid, ComEd has produced approximately 3,600 jobs, 1,600 more than anticipated.

Over 750,000 smart meters have already been installed across northern Illinois with the goal of approximately four million total installations by 2018 according to ComEd’s website.

For more information about ComEd’s smart meters visit https://www.comed.com/technology/smart-meter-smart-grid/Pages/default.aspx.