Commonwealth Edison Co. (ComEd) began the first wave of 131,000 smart meter installations for its advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) pilot in the Chicago area. The utility hopes to assess how smart meter technology can improve service, help customers make more informed decisions about energy use and contribute to lower energy costs.

“This is the first step toward a more advanced electricity system that will provide customers with more information,” said Anne Pramaggiore, president and chief operating officer, ComEd.

The smart meters ComEd is installing collect usage information every 30 minutes and will send that information to the utility through a secure network. When the pilot is fully implemented in early summer 2010, the electric company plans to be able to provide customers with daily usage information, accessible through the Internet, to help monitor their energy use and manage energy costs. The smart meters will enable ComEd to access important account information on demand, so customer service representatives can provide more complete information. They also will enable ComEd to begin assessing the potential operational, environmental and other benefits of smart meters.

The pilot program started in November 2009 and will run to May 2010; residents and businesses in nine towns serviced by ComEd’s Maywood operating center will receive the new meters. ComEd handpicked these areas to be a good representation of the entire service area. Five hundred residents in another area also will receive the new meters for a smaller test with water meters.

Some customers in the pilot will be selected to test a variety of energy management features and technologies, including alternative pricing plans, Web interfaces, in-home displays, home area networks and programmable thermostats. This will allow ComEd to examine the new meters’ operational benefits for customers as well as how they respond and use the technology and track any changes in their consumption habits.

“The results of this pilot will provide additional information to the Illinois Commerce Commission and other stakeholders as we work together to develop a potential roadmap for statewide smart grid deployment,” Pramaggiore said.