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Lawmakers To Resume Debate On ComEd ‘Smart-Grid’ Bill

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A ComEd truck parked behind a home after storms caused power outages on June 21, 2011.  (Credit: CBS)

A ComEd truck parked behind a home after storms caused power outages on June 21, 2011. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Lawmakers will again be debating Senate Bill 1652, the Smart Grid legislation, this week.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports, to get past Gov. Pat Quinn’s veto of the bill, the state Senate needs another five votes, and the House another four. Quinn is hoping that won’t happen.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Michele Fiore reports

“Sustaining this veto is the most important consumer issue that we’ve faced in a long, long time,” Quinn said.

Quinn has pointed out that the bill would give ComEd the green light to raise utility rates every year for the next decade.

Speaking against the bill over the weekend, Quinn was joined by representatives of AARP in Chicago, where most of the 800 registered voters surveyed believe they already have reliable electric service.

William McNairy of Citizens Action Illinois says that means most oppose a rate increase.

“We’re being squeezed on every side – record unemployment, record foreclosures, record poverty – now we’re being asked to guarantee Commonwealth Edison an automatic annual utility increase every year,” McNairy said.

AARP state director Bob Gallo calls the bill a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and says it’s a terrible deal for consumers.

Officials from ComEd say the public is suffering without a smart grid.

They say some of the major power outages this past summer would not have lasted as long if their desired smart-grid upgrade of their distribution system had taken place, and they are working to line up votes to have Quinn’s veto overturned.

ComEd and Ameren say the bill would upgrade the power grid, put people to work, and overhaul the regulatory system.

Supporters of the legislation have said the $3 billion, 10-year plan is needed to fund a “Smart Grid” that would monitor energy use and reduce waste. The legislation would have provided ComEd and its downstate counterpart, Ameren, with money for basic infrastructure for the “Smart Grid.”

ComEd has argued that converting to a “Smart Grid” would eventually save customers approximately $3 billion over a 20-year period by providing daily usage information that would help them monitor costs.

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