ComEd has launched three new studies to better understand the technical and community challenges and opportunities presented by the clean energy transition envisioned by the newly enacted Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (CEJA).
"CEJA provides a roadmap to an equitable clean energy future for Illinois. The state's utilities must now plan and execute the investments that will enable the rapid growth of renewables and electric vehicles, ensure the grid's resilience to more extreme weather caused by climate change, and balance the need to keep electric bills affordable," said ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones. "This transformation will offer tremendous economic, environmental and public health benefits, and these studies will help us design our grid plans to ensure that every community benefits."
These studies complement the comprehensive Climate Risk and Adaptation Study announced last week by ComEd and the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory's Center for Climate Resilience and Decision Science. The findings will inform ComEd's grid investment plans, as described by CEJA, as well as how ComEd can support the state's ambitious clean energy goals.
For each of the new studies, ComEd has retained experienced research teams who have worked on these issues around the country. Stakeholder feedback and discussion will also be vital to helping inform the studies with a full picture of the challenges and opportunities associated with meeting the state's energy goals and creating an equitable clean energy economy. These new studies will focus on three topics:
• Decarbonization Pathways
o ComEd is partnering with Energy+Environmental Economics (E3) to explore different pathways for Illinois which would achieve a net zero economy by 2050. While CEJA focused on power generation and achieving a decarbonized energy sector, this study will look beyond CEJA to full, economy-wide decarbonization.
• Disadvantaged/Underrepresented Communities
o ComEd is partnering with ILLUME Advising (ILLUME) to investigate clean energy services within disadvantaged communities. Through stakeholder engagement and regional analysis, ILLUME will explore the barriers that disadvantaged and environmental justice communities face in equitably receiving services toward clean energy transformation.
o ComEd is partnering with BW Research to study the clean energy transformation's impact on the Illinois workforce – particularly, the potential for new jobs in disadvantaged communities. This study will identify emerging employment opportunities in clean energy as well as potential transitions for those workers displaced from the retirement of fossil fuels. The research will include both statewide and regional analyses to support strategic planning as well as identifying workforce development opportunities for career pathways, economic mobility, and improved education and training programs.
All three studies are intended to be complete by the fall of 2022, and a final report will be made publicly available for each.
"Building the energy infrastructure needed to support a clean energy economy will require the training and hiring of thousands of diverse, highly skilled union workers," said Don Finn, Business Manager and Financial Secretary for IBEW Local 134. "We commend ComEd for tackling this research so that we can build diverse talent pipelines and position traditionally underrepresented people from underserved communities to earn family-sustaining and life-changing wages."
"As we build our clean energy future, we have an opportunity to address longstanding public health disparities and income inequality that disproportionally impact low-income residents and people of color," said Carl Ellis, Chairperson of the Economic Development Committee for the NAACP, Westside Branch. "We're proud to work alongside ComEd to identify and address existing barriers and find new ways to lift communities in need."
Separately, the Climate Risk and Adaptation Study will examine the impact of changing weather due to climate change, including sustained heat and flooding risk, on the design and performance of the region's power grid. It is the first study launched in concert with the Electric Power Research Institute's (EPRI) Climate READi™: Power (REsilience and ADaptation initiative), a recently announced, three-year global program on climate change risk. This will be the first climate adaptation study in the region and one of the only studies in the nation to incorporate the impact of increased electrification into the climate risk planning process.
These studies will inform ComEd's planned grid investments that will continue to enable the clean, reliable and affordable power that ComEd customers have come to expect. ComEd in the first three months of 2022 delivered its most reliable service on record for any first quarter in the company's history. Since starting smart grid investments in 2012, ComEd has avoided more than 17 million customer interruptions due in part to smart grid and system improvements, including digital "smart switches" that automatically reroute power around potential problem areas. These investments have helped save customers more than $3 billion in avoided outages and many millions more through efficiencies created by technologies like smart meters that help resolve outages remotely.