March 11, 2010 - Com Ed will use $5 million in Recovery Act funding for the program, which will initially outfit 8,000 homes with advanced smart meters in order to test how well consumers manage their energy consumption when monitoring and programming are available. 3,100 customers will receive a basic energy use display meter, 1,500 will get a touch-screen version that allows for electricity monitoring and internet access, and 400 will also receive programmable thermostats that allow remote control of heating and cooling systems.

The project will also include outfitting 100 homes with distributed solar power systems, creating small distributed generation points through which ComEd can glimpse the smart home of the future.

Eventually, the project will extend to cover 131,000 metered homes. The project will also test various pricing mechanisms, in which pilot participants will be offered a six-tiered pricing approach.

The 6 options are widely accessible. They are:

  • Regular current flat rates
  • Rising rates based on higher-than-average consumption
  • Hourly rates based on day-ahead wholesale rates
  • Rising rates based on peak demand
  • Rebate for customers that reduce consumption during peak demand
  • Time-of-use pricing in which costs differ between peak and non-peak loading periods.

A key ingredient in any smart grid is a smart consumer, a fact that ComEd and the feds’ joint venture in Chicago will hopefully illustrate in the real world  — and in real time.