Questions & Answers

We welcome your questions and comments about the Community of the Future in Bronzeville and the community engagement process underway. Submit a Question

Why has Bronzeville been selected for the Community of the Future project?

There are many factors that compel us to create a Community of the Future in Bronzeville. With a rich legacy of innovation, the Bronzeville area has a diverse mix of homes, small and large businesses, churches, schools, and critical facilities, such as police headquarters and hospitals. This creates a unique community setting for smart city innovation – and provides ComEd the ability to test different energy consumption requirements and customer interests.

In addition, with smart meter installation substantially completed in Bronzeville, the foundation for a Community of the Future has been laid. Smart meters provide customers with more control over their energy consumption and costs and make it easier to access money saving pricing programs. ComEd has also completed installation of distribution automation, or smart switches, that reduce the frequency and duration of power outages.

Home to the Illinois Institute of Technology (Illinois Tech), Bronzeville is uniquely positioned to demonstrate the promise of our new energy economy. The school’s College of Engineering plays a key role in transformations underway in the energy and utility industries. It’s home to the Center for Smart Grid Applications, Research and Technology (CSMART), a driving force for innovation and collaboration between ComEd, other leading research organizations, technology companies and entrepreneurs. CSMART projects include sensor-based “smart city” technologies that could be deployed in Bronzeville and throughout the region.

What is the timeline for a Community of the Future to be brought to reality?

This is a long-term, multi-year endeavor, with many moving pieces. ComEd has been engaging the citizens and leaders of Bronzeville through a series of Community of the Future workshops to explore opportunities to further leverage the strength of the smart grid and related technologies to introduce new products and services to the community. The workshops began in October 2016 and will be held into 2018.

In the near term, research and development and demonstration projects are underway or have been completed on several projects that leverage smart grid technology, including smart streetlights, smart water meters and Electric Vehicle charging stations.

ComEd also is working to develop partnerships with technology and community leaders to help bring innovative options to the Bronzeville community. For example, the company is developing a ride-sharing program with a manufacturer of electric vehicles that would enable people to bridge the “last mile-first mile” gap that exists when riders find it hard to get to the nearest transit route from their departure point or when they arrive at their destination. This initiative also includes participation of a company that has developed the modular Light and Charge System that transforms street lights into charging stations for electric vehicles.

In addition to engaging with a Community of the Future Advisory Committee comprised of community leaders, ComEd is working on these initiatives with the Bronzeville Community Economic Development Partnership, which is focused on information technology, heritage tourism, hospitality workforce development and training, preservation and sustainability.

What will ComEd do to educate the community about the Community of the Future?

We’re engaged in a collaborative process with Bronzeville stakeholders, residents and businesses to create a shared vision for the Community of the Future.

The meetings we’re holding with our advisory committee and with residents illustrate the commitment we’re making to engage all stakeholders in a robust discussion about priorities and what they would like to see in the Community of the Future. Our plan calls for continuous engagement and communication with all parties as the project moves forward, including the launch of this website to keep the community apprised of recommendations being made through the co-design process and status of key initiatives.

What’s driving the Smart City transformation?

The intersection of energy and communications industries is creating the most profound change in the history of the electric utility industry – and the smart city phenomenon is a compelling example of this great transformation.

Cities in North America and throughout the world are envisioning a future centered on smart city technology, and this presents a tremendous opportunity for utilities to collaborate and educate their municipal partners and stakeholders about the potential and what needs to be done to realize it – as we’re doing through community engagement meetings in Bronzeville.

Collaboration is everything. It was key to the creation and enactment of the smart grid law in Illinois in 2011. In fact, the effort began in 2009-10 with a comprehensive pilot project involving 130,000 smart meters in the western suburbs of Chicago – in what we called our “innovation corridor”. The pilot helped to prove the value of smart meters to residential participants and validated other aspects of the customer experience, as well as safety and operational procedures.

The Community of the Future in Bronzeville will play a similar role in the development and testing of new energy products and solutions that will enhance everyday life. ComEd has identified new technologies that could be tested and evaluated using the mesh network communication system that supports ComEd’s smart grid.

What is the Status of the Bronzeville Community Microgrid Demonstration Project?

In February, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) approved ComEd’s plan to construct the first utility-scale microgrid cluster in the nation in the Bronzeville neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. Construction on the microgrid began in June. The microgrid is expected to be completed in 2019 and its performance and impact, including a cost benefit analysis, will be studied over approximately 10 years. A broad range of metrics have been established to evaluate the project and its ability to positively impact the resilience of the energy system, the Bronzeville community and critical infrastructure.

The microgrid project will be located within the Bronzeville neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side, in an area bounded from 33rd Street to the North, 38th Street to the South, State Street to the West, and South Dr. Martin L. King Jr. Drive to the East. Bronzeville was selected following a comprehensive study to evaluate locations where a microgrid could be located. The study developed an overall resiliency metric for small sections of ComEd’s northern Illinois service territory and identified locations where a microgrid could best address both security and resiliency, with a focus on public good.

The new microgrid project will connect with an existing microgrid on the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, creating one of the most advanced clustered urban microgrids in the United States. The project will serve an area that includes 10 facilities providing critical services, including the Chicago Public Safety Headquarters, the De La Salle Institute and the Math & Science Academy, a library, public works buildings, restaurants, health clinics, public transportation, educational facilities, and churches.