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Chicago-based ComEd, which installed 470 distribution automation (DA) devices in 2012, says the technology resulted in 82,000 fewer customer power interruptions last year. For example, DA devices prevented 20,000 service interruptions during severe storms that hit the Chicago area in mid-April.

By remotely monitoring and controlling grid operations, DA devices, or "smart switches," are a central feature of smart grid technology and ComEd's effort to reduce the frequency and duration of outages, the utility explains.

Under the state’s 2011 smart grid law, ComEd invested a total of $32 million in the installation of DA in 2012 and plans to boost the investment to over $44 million this year. Over the course of the 10-year grid modernization program, the utility is increasing the number of customers served by DA to nearly 90%.

"Just as today's smartphone technology merged the power of computers with cellular phones, smart grid technology merges the power of computers with the electric grid," says Mike McMahan, ComED vice president of smart grid and technology.

"With distribution automation, if a tree were to fall on a utility pole resulting in an interruption, far fewer customers would be impacted because it enables us to better isolate the damaged section," McMahan continues. "DA introduces a self-healing capability to the electric grid by allowing us to resolve issues before customers might even be aware of them, and that has a profoundly positive impact on people's daily lives."


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