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US mayors aim to advance smart cities

Working with ComEd, they will support the development of new energy efficiency programmes, smart streetlights, and community and residential solar

MMC and ComEd hope the lessons learned can be of benefit to cities across the US
MMC and ComEd hope the lessons learned can be of benefit to cities across the US

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd), part of energy provider Exelon, and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus (MMC), are collaborating on the creation of a new national model to advance smart city solutions.


The two sides have announced a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will support the study and development of new energy efficiency programmes, smart streetlights, and community and residential solar and other infrastructure projects.


The aim is to develop a pilot for a national model on how utilities and municipalities can work together to create greener, more resilient and sustainable communities.


The announcement follows a green light from the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) last month that established “smart” as the new standard for all streetlights that ComEd owns in northern Illinois.


The new standard is expected to accelerate the deployment of smart LED street lighting service that will leverage the wireless communications network used by ComEd’s new smart grid platform that allows for two-way communication between the utility and its customers.


“ComEd and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus are working to enhance the livability and sustainability of the communities we serve,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and CEO, ComEd.


She added: “We’re nearing the completion of the smart grid modernisation programme which is producing record reliability for our customers, and we’re eager to begin leveraging the strength of this modern digital platform.


“We will work together to inform cities and towns about the benefits of smart streetlights, solar power, and other technologies. We will also help municipalities that own their own streetlights to identify ways to fund the conversion to smart LED lights. We hope the lessons learned from this collaboration can be replicated across the entire ComEd service territory, Illinois and the nation.”


This new initiative will also get a boost from the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA), which was enacted by the Illinois General Assembly and signed into law by Governor Rauner last year. It goes into effect in June and will increase funding for energy efficiency from $250 million to $400 million annually by 2030.


These funds create savings opportunities for all customer classes, including municipalities, supporting the development of new energy efficiency programmes as well as the conversion of current municipal lighting systems to smart LED streetlights.


For the past six years, MMC has served as administrator of energy efficiency programmes for the public sector through a programme formally managed by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). The ICC recently granted a petition proposed by ComEd and the DCEO that will allow ComEd to assume responsibility for the programme.


“We’ve had considerable success working with Illinois utilities to create energy savings for our member communities, and we expect to expand on this record by working more directly with them,” said Robert J. Nunamaker, executive board chairman of MMC. “Mayors throughout the region are very well aware of the importance of energy infrastructure.


"We understand what ComEd has done through the development of the smart grid programme and we want to work with them to build on this smart foundation for the benefit of our entire region.”


Preliminary discussions between ComEd and the MMC have been focused on development of projects to convert existing street lights to more efficient LEDs, which consume as little as one-third of the energy and last up to one and a half times as long as the fixtures they replace.


In 2015, ComEd launched smart streetlight pilot projects in Bensenville and Lombard. Informed by learnings from these pilots, ComEd is developing plans to replace all 140,000 ComEd-owned municipal streetlights with LED streetlights beginning later this year.


One of the first programmes that the MMC will manage for ComEd under the MOU is a series of workshops with the South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association in south Cook County to help municipalities identify potential projects that they’d like to pursue.


Connecting smart streetlights to the ComEd smart grid allows communities to remotely and instantaneously dim lights for energy savings and brighten them for greater safety. They can also be controlled on-demand by first responders to better manage emergency situations.


Smart streetlights can also serve as a backbone for sensor-based, smart city features that allow for a broad range of solutions, from intelligent waste management to air quality monitoring, snow removal monitoring and traffic management.


Founded in 1997, the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus is a membership organisation of the Chicago region’s 275 cities, towns and villages.


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