WBEZ | ComEd http://www.wbez.org/tags/comed Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en The art and science behind the glow of Chicago's skyline http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/art-and-science-behind-glow-chicagos-skyline-111928 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/202093663&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false&amp;show_artwork=false" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>On a clear night in the summer of 2014, Mike Mesterharm hopped in his car and hit a southbound expressway toward downtown Chicago. He was happy to be back home; he&rsquo;d left the city at 18, for college and some other shenanigans. During that drive, eight years later, he was gazing at the Chicago skyline &mdash; his skyline. And he was thinking it looked different somehow. Brighter.</p><p>After careful consideration of whether something in him had changed, Mike decided, No, it&rsquo;s not just that he had been looking on the bright side lately &mdash; it must be something with the lights. So he sent Curious City this question:</p><p dir="ltr" style="text-align: center;"><em>How has energy efficient lighting affected the view of the Chicago skyline?</em></p><p>We found an answer for Mike, but the &ldquo;green energy angle&rdquo; is just a part of it. Expert after expert suggested that that story would not do justice to the big picture: Chicago&rsquo;s skyline&rsquo;s evolved over the years, and that Mike&rsquo;s question is born from a short snippet of that fascinating history, one that has affected how we see &mdash; and feel &mdash; one evening to the next. We&rsquo;ll run through the highlights of how that&rsquo;s been captured in art, of all places, and deal with Mike&rsquo;s question in the most recent timeframe.</p><p>And at the end of it all, we arrive at a crossroads that illuminates a big decision we&rsquo;ll soon have to make: What does Chicago <em>want </em>its skyline to look like?</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">A brief history of Chicago&rsquo;s skyline palette</span></p><p>The impact of city lights on city dwellers has affected Chicago&rsquo;s culture, too; to get the broad picture of change in the skyline, you can survey the city&rsquo;s literature and visual art.</p><p>Note the skyline&rsquo;s yellow tinge in this excerpt from &lsquo;<a href="http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.poetryfoundation.org%2Fpoem%2F239566&amp;sa=D&amp;sntz=1&amp;usg=AFQjCNHiSA3B9-DNGydvoEkEKVs8tK-62g" target="_blank">The Windy City</a>&rsquo; [sections 1 and 6], penned by Chicago poet Carl Sandburg in 1916.</p><blockquote><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">So between the Great Lakes, &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">The Grand De Tour, and the Grand Prairie, &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">The living lighted skyscrapers stand,</span></p><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Spotting the blue dusk with checkers of yellow,</span></p><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;streamers of smoke and silver, &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;parallelograms of night-gray watchmen, &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p><p style="text-align: right;"><span style="font-size:12px;">Singing a soft moaning song: I am a child, a belonging. &nbsp;</span></p></blockquote><div><span style="line-height: 1.38;">Compare that to the light-polluted sky found in this excerpt from &lsquo;<a href="http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/239566" target="_blank">The Waste Land&rsquo;</a> (2010) by John Beer.</span></div><blockquote><p><span style="font-size:12px;">Orpheus walked down Milwaukee Avenue toward the Flatiron Building. He passed bodegas, taquerias, vintage stores. He met a hustler with a gas can. He walked past the anarchist kids. And he walked, and he walked, and he walked past the cabdrivers trading insults in Urdu, and he walked past convenience stores, and he walked past Latin Kings, and he walked past waitresses getting off night shifts, and he walked past jazz stars that nobody recognized, he walked past the students, the teachers, the cops. And the sky was the color of eggplant and tire fires, the sky was the field that resisted exhaustion.</span></p></blockquote><p>Lynne Warren, a curator at Chicago&rsquo;s Museum of Contemporary Art, says you can track Chicago&rsquo;s changing city lights in paintings, too.</p><p>In<em> Bronzeville At Night</em> (1949), Chicago artist Archibald Motley depicted the yellow incandescent street lights used across the city at the time. The lamps were sparse and dim enough that on clear nights, you could make out stars across the skyline.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/bronzeville%20at%20night%20archibald%20motley.png" style="height: 494px; width: 620px;" title="A painting by Archibald J. Motley Jr. of Chicago's Bronzeville neighborhood lit by moonlight and incandescent street lights." /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">Warren notes, too, that the warmth of incandescent light enhanced the &ldquo;natural&rdquo; colors of Chicago&rsquo;s nightscapes. For example, the red of the classic, Chicago brick on the building in the background is actually drawn out by the light. The tops of the cars on the left also reflect the &ldquo;truer blue&rdquo; of the Chicago night sky.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/richard-florsheim-jet-landings.jpg" style="float: right; height: 262px; width: 350px;" title="Richard Florsheim's 'Jet Landings' pictures the blue-green glow of Chicago street lights in the 1960s (Courtesy artnet.com)" />A decade or so after Motley&rsquo;s Bronzeville painting was complete, though, the city swapped out incandescents for brighter bulbs that gave off a green cast. The 1960s were the era of mercury vapor lights, and, <a href="https://chicagohistorytoday.wordpress.com/2013/12/30/old-street-lights/" target="_blank">by some accounts</a>, they cast a sci-fi feel across the city.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">By the end of the 1970s, just about all of Chicago&rsquo;s streetlights were replaced yet again, but this time with sodium vapor lights, which glow with a deep orange. Or, like orbs the color of tire fires, if you will.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Chicago&rsquo;s still got a lot of these lamps, and they dominated the city during the &#39;90s, when our question-asker, Mike Mesterharm, was a kid.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Warren says that gold glow repeats over and over in depictions of Chicago&rsquo;s skyline by Roger Brown, an influential painter during the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chicago_Imagists" target="_blank">Chicago Imagists movement</a>. His piece <em>Entry of Christ into Chicago in 1976</em> (1976) depicts the Hancock Tower, the Aon Center and the Sears Tower (today&rsquo;s Willis Tower) being set against a light-polluted, sodium vapor sky.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Brown-jesus.jpg" style="height: 347px; width: 620px;" title="Chicago Imagists painter Roger Brown's depiction of the Chicago skyline, titled 'The Entry of Christ into Chicago in 1976.' (Courtesy Whitney Museum of American Art)" /></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><p>All that&rsquo;s to say, Mike Mesterharm&rsquo;s question comes at a bit of a well-lit crossroads; recent changes to Chicago&rsquo;s lit environment are again affecting its color palette. Warren says she&rsquo;s beginning to consider Brown&rsquo;s work as historical &mdash; like she would <a href="http://www.artic.edu/aic/collections/artwork/111628" target="_blank">Edward Hopper&rsquo;s <em>Nighthawks</em></a> or Motley&rsquo;s <em>Bronzeville At Night</em> &mdash; because, like Mike, she&rsquo;s noticed the gradual visual exodus of the sodium vapor light.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">Out with the gold, in with the blue</span></p><p>George Malek, director of ComEd&rsquo;s energy efficiency program, confirms sodium vapor lighting &mdash; and its tell-tale gold glow &mdash; is on its way out. And, he says, the transformation is driven by a city-wide movement toward efficient lighting, something that Mike had suspected when he pitched us his question.</p><p>Malek says during the &lsquo;90s, manufacturers and engineers developed ways to wring the same amount of light (if not more of it) from the same amount of power. The improvements, he says, came with indoor fluorescent lights used in office buildings and commercial businesses. Previously, fluorescents ran on magnetic ballasts (the things that make a lamp turn on), but newer, electronic ballasts could run on 60 percent of the energy previously needed. Over time, Malek says, the standard width of fluorescent tubes got thinner and thinner, but they emitted more and more light.</p><p>With these successes in hand, Malek says, companies like ComEd saw potential for energy efficiency on a larger scale.</p><p>In 2008 ComEd launched <a href="https://www.comed.com/business-savings/programs-incentives/Pages/lighting.aspx" target="_blank">a series of initiatives</a> to help businesses and residents cut their energy consumption &mdash; and costs &mdash; across the board. Malek says the vast majority of requests from commercial businesses were for replacing lighting systems. He says that&rsquo;s still the case.</p><p>Malek thinks our question-asker, Mike Mesterharm, is on to something when it comes to the Chicago skyline getting brighter.</p><p>&ldquo;I bet you there&rsquo;s more lumens at this point in the skyline,&rdquo; Malek says. &ldquo;I would think it&rsquo;s brighter.&rdquo;</p><p>Malek points out, though, that while the skyline&rsquo;s getting brighter in terms of lumens (a measurement of visible light), it&rsquo;s also getting brighter where you actually <em>need</em> it to be bright. That&rsquo;s because of the increasing accessibility of Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs), a lighting technology that&rsquo;s more directional and brighter than their sodium vapor predecessors.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/19ejvmq0elq8gjpg%20led%20lights%20hoover%20street%20courtesy.jpg" style="height: 352px; width: 620px;" title="An example of the color differences in sodium vapor lighting, left, versus LED lighting, right, on a residential street in Los Angeles. (Courtesy Los Angeles Bureau of Street Lighting) " /></div><p>LEDs are also &ldquo;cooler&rdquo; on the color spectrum &nbsp;than sodium vapor lights, so they give off a bluer hue, unless they&rsquo;re somehow manipulated. <a href="http://www.popsci.com/article/technology/why-blue-led-worth-nobel-prize" target="_blank">Advancements in LED color rendering</a> are happening quickly, though, Malek points out. So while the skyline may be brighter overall because of them, it&rsquo;s hard to predict long-term changes in the skyline&rsquo;s color.</p><p>Malek says ComEd&rsquo;s already experimenting with 800 LED streetlights in the Chicago suburbs of Lombard and Bensenville. The lights are not only more energy efficient, he says, but they&rsquo;re also equipped with &ldquo;smart technology.&rdquo; Applications could include dimming lights in sync with sunrise and sunset, or turning them off completely when people want to better appreciate Fourth of July fireworks displays. In emergency situations, they could be isolated to flash in areas that need attention by police or medics. (For better or for worse, it&rsquo;s possible that in the near future, your alderman or other local rep could control your neighborhood&rsquo;s street lights from an iPad.)</p><p>Malek can&rsquo;t say for sure whether Chicago will adopt the same fixture technology, but he predicts it will arrive someday, regardless of energy savings.</p><p>And if you think that&rsquo;s going to change the view of a skyline, we&rsquo;ve only scratched the surface.</p><p><span style="font-size:22px;">New creative powers</span></p><p>Light as a utility is one thing, but light as an aesthetic or artistic choice is another. And as LED technology swarms the light market, Chicago, like other cities, will have more choices about what kind of lights to buy and how to use them. That&rsquo;s true for your home, your neighborhood, and the entire Chicago skyline.</p><p>Changes in the skyline could be hard to ignore.</p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="349" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/62936054?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="620"></iframe><p>Take what&rsquo;s happened at the Intercontinental Miami. In 2013 the hotel installed a 19-story LED installation of a silhouetted woman dancing on the side of its building (and then offered <a href="http://miami.curbed.com/archives/2013/01/11/intercontinental-hotel.php" target="_blank">this explanation</a>). The 47-floor iconic Miami Tower in the heart of downtown is now also a <a href="http://www.ledsource.com/project/miami-tower/" target="_blank">slate for light displays that look like neon fish</a> &mdash; with the capability of 16 million color combinations.</p><p>In 2014 Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel<a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dps/ContractAdministration/Specs/2014/Spec124831Exhibit1_Part1.pdf" target="_blank"> launched an international call for proposals</a> to have designers rethink the city&rsquo;s &ldquo;Lighting Framework Plan.&rdquo; According to the invitation, the city wants &ldquo;unique and revolutionary&rdquo; lighting concepts to decorate some of the most &ldquo;important and visible public places in Chicago.&rdquo; An invitation for proposals provides designers with suggestions, including photo displays cast onto the Merchandise Mart:</p><div class="image-insert-image "><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dps/ContractAdministration/Specs/2014/Spec124831Exhibit1_Part1.pdf" target="_blank"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/proposal screenshot.PNG" style="height: 401px; width: 620px;" title="(Source: City of Chicago.)" /></a></div></div><div class="image-insert-image "><a href="http://www.schulershook.com/" target="_blank">Schuler Shook</a> lighting designer Jim Baney points out that LEDs can be used in subtle ways, but he&rsquo;s seen projects get carried away, too. From his vantage, lighting in Chicago should accompany presentation of architecture.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;Just because we have the ability with LEDs to select from any number of different colors and to mix those colors to make other colors, doesn&rsquo;t necessarily mean that we should all the time do that,&rdquo; he says. &ldquo;I think with control comes responsibility and comes the need for somebody to really have knowledge.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><span style="font-size:22px;">Another choice: The case to be made for stars</span></div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/audrey.jpg" style="height: 465px; width: 620px;" title="Audrey Fischer, President of Chicago's Astronomical Society. (WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">With this much power in our hands to light &nbsp;the world as much as we want (and however we want), there is a case to made for a different strategy for Chicago&rsquo;s future skyline: restraint.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Audrey Fischer, President of Chicago&rsquo;s Astronomical Society and an advocate for dark skies, wants the city to invest in light fixtures that only shine downward, and bulbs that don&rsquo;t burn quite so bright, or so blue.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;In my mind a &lsquo;green&rsquo; city like Chicago ... ought to have a midnight blue sky, star-studded with the milky way,&rdquo; she says.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">If the case for starlight&rsquo;s natural beauty doesn&rsquo;t move you, Fischer points to a litany of problems associated with irresponsible lighting (aka, light pollution). For starters, it <a href="http://www.birdmonitors.net/LightsOut.php" target="_blank">screws up bird migratory paths</a> and <a href="http://www.bats.org.uk/pages/bats_and_lighting.html" target="_blank">disrupts roosting by local bat populations</a>. Even the eco-friendliest of lights can <a href="http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/blue-light-has-a-dark-side" target="_blank">screw up our own internal clocks</a> as well. And that&rsquo;s apart from evidence that the wrong lighting can <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3002207/" target="_blank">increase the risk of breast cancer</a>, <a href="http://aje.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2014/05/29/aje.kwu117.short" target="_blank">obesity</a>, and <a href="http://sleepfoundation.org/sleep-topics/melatonin-and-sleep" target="_blank">sleep disorders</a>. (For an extensive look on issues regarding blue-rich, white outdoor lighting, see <a href="http://www.darksky.org/assets/documents/Reports/IDA-Blue-Rich-Light-White-Paper.pdf" target="_blank">this report by the International Dark-Sky Association</a>).</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Fischer says Chicago is the most light-polluted city in the world, referencing <a href="https://s3.amazonaws.com/wbez-assets/curiouscity/ngeo_1300_NOV11_auproof2.pdf" target="_blank">a study by researcher Harald Stark at the University of Colorado</a>. This is kind of ironic, given that in the early 20th century Edwin Hubble (of Hubble telescope fame) made some of <a href="https://cosmology.carnegiescience.edu/timeline/1929" target="_blank">his most important scientific discoveries</a> (like the fact that the universe is expanding) with a degree in mathematics and astronomy from the University of Chicago. Now, you can hardly even see starlight if you&#39;re gazing within the city limits.</div><div><p><a href="http://www.nps.gov/grba/learn/nature/lightscape.htm" target="_blank">A study by the National Park Service estimates</a> that by 2025, dark skies will be an &ldquo;extinct phenomena&rdquo; in the continental United States due to light pollution.</p><p>To people like Fischer, that&rsquo;s a pretty high cost.</p><p>&ldquo;Starlight is the one thing that connects all nationalities across this planet,&rdquo; she says. &ldquo;Theres a chance that we&rsquo;re going to lose that forever.&rdquo;</p><p>Here&rsquo;s a taste of what we&rsquo;re missing.</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Chi1h5.jpg" style="height: 207px; width: 620px;" title="The Chicago sky as it could be without light pollution showing the Milky Way and numerous stars. (Composite image by Adler photographer, Craig Stillwell, and Adler astronomer, Larry Ciupik, based on images by Craig Stillwell and Wei-Hao Wang)" /></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/mike_0.jpg" style="float: right; height: 213px; width: 300px;" title="(WBEZ/Logan Jaffe)" /><span style="font-size:22px;">About our question-asker</span></div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Mike Mesterharm is from Chicago, but he left the city at 18 to attend college. He says he didn&rsquo;t pay much attention to things like street lights or skyline changes. But come to think of it, he says, he didn&rsquo;t pay much attention to <em>anything</em> at 18.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">Now, at 28, Mike says he&rsquo;s a bit more observant about his environment. In fact, he says his whole concept of the environment has expanded.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;Our environment isn&rsquo;t simply the hard matter,&rdquo; Mike says. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s the things that exist around that. It&rsquo;s the light, it&rsquo;s the sound.</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&ldquo;You know, I wouldn&rsquo;t have asked this question at 18. If anything, I find it reassuring that maybe if the skyline&rsquo;s changed and I&rsquo;m noticing it, that&rsquo;s a good thing. And if it hasn&rsquo;t changed &hellip; now I&rsquo;m paying attention.&rdquo;</div><div class="image-insert-image ">&nbsp;</div><div class="image-insert-image "><em>Logan Jaffe is Curious City&rsquo;s multimedia producer. Follow her on twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/loganjaffe" target="_blank">@loganjaffe</a>.</em></div></div></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 22 Apr 2015 17:56:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/curious-city/art-and-science-behind-glow-chicagos-skyline-111928 ICC says ComEd can delay rollout of smart meters http://www.wbez.org/news/icc-says-comed-can-delay-rollout-smart-meters-104210 <p><p>The Illinois Commerce Commission has agreed to let Commonwealth Edison delay the rollout of so-called &quot;smart&quot; meters.</p><p>The digital devices record electricity consumption in greater detail than older meters. They will be installed on homes in ComEd&#39;s&nbsp;service area as part of a program to modernize the electrical grid to prevent outages and help consumers save money.&nbsp;</p><p>The ICC voted Wednesday to grant the company&#39;s request to postpone.</p><p>But the commission said it did not think ComEd&#39;s claim of insufficient funding for the project was valid.<br /><br />&quot;The rates that were approved by the commission allow them to recover all of their expenses associated with this project as well as to earn a return on their investment in it,&quot; said Beth Bosch, spokesperson for the commission.</p><p>ComEd disagrees with the ICC on 12 technical issues in the commission&#39;s proposed rate formula. The company said the ICC&#39;s formulas will decrease its revenues by at least $100 million per year and make the smart meter project unsustainable.</p><p>&quot;We are not going to be able to embark on a billion-dollar investment program without assurance of having adequate funding,&quot; said Judy Rader of ComEd.</p><p>ComEd wants to delay installation until 2015;&nbsp;the ICC said it will revisit the issue in April.</p></p> Wed, 05 Dec 2012 12:54:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/icc-says-comed-can-delay-rollout-smart-meters-104210 Municipal electricity aggregation explained http://www.wbez.org/news/municipal-electricity-aggregation-explained-103585 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F65654115&amp;auto_play=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;color=ff7700" width="100%"></iframe></p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/3230835112_8055f4dbe5_z.jpg" style="float: right; height: 400px; width: 300px; " title="Power lines against the blue sky in Chicago. (Flickr/Eric Allix Rogers)" />Chicago voters next week won&#39;t just be choosing who takes the reins in the White House. They&rsquo;ll decide whether to give City Hall the power to negotiate for cheaper power bills. &nbsp;</p><p>The question on the ballot is as follows:</p><p><strong>&quot;Shall the City of Chicago have the authority to arrange for the supply of electricity for its residential and small commercial retail customers who have not opted out of such program.&quot;</strong></p><p>In short, we&rsquo;re talking about municipal electricity aggregation.&nbsp;Here&rsquo;s how it works: City Hall bundles all the residential and small business electricity customers together, and&nbsp;then they negotiate with smaller suppliers to see who can give them the best rate. &nbsp;It&rsquo;s kind of like a Costco approach--buying in bulk means cheaper prices.<br /><br />Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel is all for it.<br /><br />&quot;I&rsquo;ve looked at other cities, buying in bulk can save homeowners and residents money. And so therefore I&rsquo;ll support putting it on the ballot and I will advocate for it,&quot; <a href="http://www.wbez.org/programs/eight-forty-eight/2012-06-21/emanuel-supports-electrical-aggregation-chicago-100289">Emanuel told reporters last summer</a>, when the referendum was first introduced.<br /><br />If Chicago switched to this plan, it wouldn&rsquo;t be alone: 248 other municipalities in Illinois have already started up their own aggregation programs, and some residents say it&rsquo;s been working pretty well.<br /><br />Take Wilmette homeowner Stephen Schwartz, for example. Schwartz says he&#39;s always trying to save energy, as his mid-1930s colonial &nbsp;has all the problems of an older house: windows that aren&#39;t well-insulated, uninsulated brick exterior, etc.&nbsp;He was glad the Village of Wilmette was able to cut his electricity rate in half through their aggregation program.</p><p>&quot;All the lights are still on, I can still use my computer, charge the electric mower, that kind of thing, so no, no problems,&quot; Schwartz said.<br /><br />David Kolata, Executive Director of the Citizens Utility Board, said those savings could be available for Chicago, if voters say yes. According to Kolata,&nbsp;the current price from Commonwealth Edison is 8.32 cents a kilowatt hour, while smaller suppliers could offer an average rate of 4.83 cents a kilowatt hour.<br /><br />If the referenda passes, Kolata says some things will still be the same. ComEd is still responsible for taking care of electrical poles and wires, but the actual electricity will come from the new supplier.&nbsp;<br /><br />Still, Kolata warns the cheap rates of a municipal aggregation program might not last forever.<br /><br />&quot;Just because you&rsquo;re saving now, this isn&rsquo;t a magic bullet, and it may not always work,&quot; Kolata said.<br /><br />Kolata said ComEd&rsquo;s higher prices are set to expire next June, and they&rsquo;re expected to drop after that.&nbsp;Which means ComEd could eventually have the lowest rate.</p><p>As for ComEd, the company says it supports shopping around. In a statement, the company says it &quot;encourages customers to shop for electricity,&quot; and &quot;customers should explore any opportunities to save money on their bills, whether that&#39;s through shopping or energy efficiency.&quot;</p><p>Voters looking for information about the city&#39;s potential bidding process can head over to the city&#39;s website:</p><ul><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/content/dam/city/depts/dps/ContractAdministration/Specs/2012/Spec112257.pdf">City&#39;s Request for Qualifications</a></li><li><a href="http://www.cityofchicago.org/electricityaggregation">Chicago Electricity Aggregation information&nbsp;</a></li></ul></p> Thu, 01 Nov 2012 05:52:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/municipal-electricity-aggregation-explained-103585 ComEd workers head east to provide relief to storm-ravaged coast http://www.wbez.org/news/comed-workers-head-east-provide-relief-storm-ravaged-coast-103574 <p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="http://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fapi.soundcloud.com%2Ftracks%2F65574347%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-jOgD7&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;secret_url=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>As the East Coast slowly recovers from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, some Chicagoans are actively lending a hand.&nbsp;</p><p>More than 700 employees of Chicago-based utility Commonwealth traveled to Baltimore and Philadelphia to help restore electricity to the region.</p><p>ComEd Senior Vice President Tyler Anthony has been busy since he arrived on the East Coast. &ldquo;Well, I guess I got here on Saturday, so I want to say our crews and myself arrived Sunday evening and I don&rsquo;t know the day &ndash; I apologize, is it Wednesday?&rdquo;</p><p>Anthony, who&rsquo;s been based in the emergency management offices of Philadelphia utility PECO, says his Chicago crew of more than 300 workers has been putting in 16 hour days.</p><p>ComEd and PECO are both owned by Exelon Corporation.</p><p>They expect to restore power to Philadelphia residents by the end of this weekend. Then, he and his crew will come back home.</p><p>&ldquo;When you&rsquo;re driving down a street and you see what some of these trees that have gone on top of houses or on vehicles... it&rsquo;s just a very, very, very tough thing and your heart goes out to these folks.&rdquo;</p><p>Meanwhile, The American Red Cross is asking Chicagoans to donate blood. &nbsp;The blood bank had to cancel 325 pre-planned blood drives across 13 states that were affected by the storm.</p><p>A list of upcoming Chicago blood drives is available on the Red Cross&nbsp;<a href="http://www.redcrossblood.org/HeartofAmerica">website.</a></p></p> Wed, 31 Oct 2012 16:18:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/comed-workers-head-east-provide-relief-storm-ravaged-coast-103574 48,000 ComEd customers still without power http://www.wbez.org/news/48000-comed-customers-still-without-power-100607 <p><p>Repair crews have restored power for about 300,000 Commonwealth Edison customers, but the utility is still working to get the lights back on for about 48,000 customers in northern&nbsp;Illinois.</p><p>ComEd spokesman Tony Hernandez says most of the remaining outages should be fixed by Wednesday but a few customers will remain without service until Thursday. Hernandez says that&#39;s because repair crews are having to remove the downed trees from Sunday&#39;s storms before repairing the damaged ComEd equipment.</p><p>ComEd&#39;s repair crews are getting help from other utilities, including Ameren&nbsp;Illinois&nbsp;and Ameren Missouri.</p><p>Hernandez says about 440 ComEd crews are working to restore service, with the help of about 180 crews from neighboring utilities. And he says more help will arrive Wednesday.</p></p> Tue, 03 Jul 2012 08:37:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/48000-comed-customers-still-without-power-100607 Emanuel supports electrical aggregation in Chicago http://www.wbez.org/programs/eight-forty-eight/2012-06-21/emanuel-supports-electrical-aggregation-chicago-100289 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/main-images/6908700864_74fbe8e007_z.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel says he wants the city to vie for cheaper electricity rates from companies other than ComEd. The city council will look at a proposal Friday that would be the first step towards making those negotiations possible.</p><p>ComEd is the electricity giant in Chicago.&nbsp;If the city wants the authority to negotiate for more competitive rates with any other suppliers, state law says Chicago voters have to weigh in.&nbsp;Two powerful Chicago aldermen, Ald. Patrick O&#39;Connor (40th) and Ald. Ed Burke (14th), recently proposed a referendum that would put the issue. If their proposal passes through city council, then voters will decide in November.&nbsp;</p><p>The concept is known as &quot;municipal electricity aggregation.&quot; It allows cities to bundle all residential and small business electricity supplied together, and negotiate for volume discounts from smaller suppliers. The aggregation affects the cost for the supply of electricity, not the delivery of electricity.&nbsp;</p><p>According to the consumer watchdog organization Citizens Utility Board, ComEd electricity bills contain both those costs, but only the supply would change if Chicago goes forward with the plan. ComEd electricity rates from September to June cost 6.932 cents per kilowatt hour, and will jump to 8.32 per kwh from October to May of next year. Meanwhile, according to a CUB spokesman, some of these smaller suppliers are offering rates of under a nickle per kilowatt hour.&nbsp;</p><p>Mayor Emanuel told reporters at an unrelated event Wednesday he&#39;s for the referendum and cheaper electricity rates.&nbsp;</p><p>&quot;I do believe, I&#39;ve looked at other cities, buying in bulk can save homeowners and residents money. Therefore I&#39;ll support putting it on the ballot and I will advocate for it,&quot; he said.</p><p>ComEd released a statement late Thursday night in response to the mayor&#39;s support, saying they support competition.</p><p>&quot;If the City of Chicago decides to pursue an aggregation program, we will work cooperatively with them and provide the same information we have provided to other municipalities and governments that elected to aggregate,&quot; the statement said.</p><p>According to CUB, 188 other ComEd territories in Illinois have already either signed off on the referendum, or negotiated new prices for customers.&nbsp;A spokesman for Alderman Ed Burke says some of those municipalites have reported savings of 15 to 30 percent lower than ComEd.&nbsp;</p><p>ComEd said its primary focus is on providing high quality delivery services.</p><p>If the referendum passes in Chicago, voters who don&#39;t want their electricity costs to be bundled can opt-out of the aggregation program.&nbsp;</p><p>The proposal will come before a city council committee Friday.&nbsp;</p><div>&nbsp;</div></p> Thu, 21 Jun 2012 08:29:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/programs/eight-forty-eight/2012-06-21/emanuel-supports-electrical-aggregation-chicago-100289 ComEd CEO Frank Clark looks back on his climb from the mail room http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-10/comed-ceo-frank-clark-looks-back-his-climb-mail-room-95424 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/segment/photo/2012-January/2012-01-10/headshot-clark-large.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Frank Clark began his career at <a href="https://www.comed.com/Pages/home.aspx" target="_blank">Commonwealth Edison</a> in the mailroom. More than 45 years later, he became chairman and CEO of the largest electric utility company in Illinois. Clark will retire next month but recently sat down for a chat with WBEZ’s Richard Steele. He began by telling Steele that his career at ComEd began with some basic knowledge of the company.</p><p><em>Music Button: Jackie McLean, "Omega", from the album Let Freedom Ring (Blue Note)</em></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Tue, 10 Jan 2012 15:13:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2012-01-10/comed-ceo-frank-clark-looks-back-his-climb-mail-room-95424 ComEd smart grid updates to begin this month http://www.wbez.org/story/comed-smart-grid-updates-begin-month-95291 <p><p>Construction on Chicago-based Commonwealth Edison's new electrical grid system is scheduled to begin in January.</p><p>The announcement comes about one week after Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed controversial legislation allowing electric companies to raise rates to pay for a so-called digital "smart grid."</p><p>ComEd said the $2.6 billion project could create more than 1,000 permanent jobs in the Chicago area over the next five years.</p><p>Mayor Rahm Emanuel said on Wednesday the upgrade is an essential investment for the city.</p><p>"We are preparing our economy of tomorrow with jobs today, and it allows us to also make the types of investments that are necessary to propel our economy with the jobs and the industries of tomorrow," said Emanuel.</p><p>ComEd estimated the grid updates will cost each customer about $3 extra per month. The company defended the increases on Wednesday as necessary to pay for needed updates to its power grid.</p></p> Wed, 04 Jan 2012 21:48:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/comed-smart-grid-updates-begin-month-95291 Occupy Chicago wins again! Bears listen to their demands to release Chris Harris http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-27/occupy-chicago-wins-again-bears-listen-their-demands-release-chris-h <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-27/AP110729060852.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>I'm going to start a new segment today called "Occupy-related media found on Facebook." There's really no way to tell if this stuff is real or taken out of context, so I preface my new segment with a disclaimer: This was found on Facebook. So take that with a grain of salt.</p><p>I saw this on a friend's post - a letter thrown out the window from the Chicago Board of Trade. This person doesn't like the protesters and has something to say about it (and the state of our economy). I linked it back to<a href="http://www.reddit.com/r/chicago/comments/lpy0b/just_got_back_from_a_rally_at_the_board_of_trade/"> Reddit where it has 400+ comments</a>, mostly arguing about how much teachers actually make.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-27/reddit-letter.jpg" style="width: 570px; height: 376px;" title=""></p><p>So <a href="http://www.wbez.org/story/occupy-chicago-protests-city-hall-93524">Occupy Chicago marched on City Hall yesterday to deliver a petition to Mayor Rahm Emanuel</a>. The petition is all about letting Occupy Chicago set up in Grant Park without being arrested. The mayor didn't come out, but a spokesperson did. If they don't hear anything from the mayor's office in two weeks, the protesters are threatening to come back again. I wasn't there yesterday, but did the protesters hit drums in that cavernous hallway? God that would have been annoying. I'm sorry, I'm down with protesting City Hall, but that's like honking your horn in Loop rush hour traffic. It may be justified, but that doesn't mean it still isn't super annoying.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>B story</strong>: The state legislature <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/8429910-418/illinois-senate-overrides-gov-quinns-veto-of-comed-rate-hike-bill.html">got to work yesterday and overrode the Governor Quinn veto on the ComEd smart grid</a>. What's that, you say? Well, ComEd wants state money to create a better grid for delivering electricity. They want to raise your rates per month for the next 10+ years to pay for it. They claim the smart grid technology will allow them to better deliver electricity - and allow consumers to better monitor its use. Quinn vetoed the bill this summer because he felt the legislation was just a way for the utility companies to raise rates on Illinois consumers. Critics believe that ComEd will never bring the rates back down once the smart grid is in place. I don't know.&nbsp; If there is one thing I believe Governor Quinn is experienced in, it's fighting the utility companies. That's really how he made his name. So if he can't win on this, what does that mean for legislation he isn't strong on? In this case, I believe in Governor Quinn's track record. And he was joined by our State's Attorney Lisa Madigan. They were trounced in the veto vote. That's why this might be a tough day for Illinois. Energy lobbyists: 1, Quinn/Lisa Madigan: 0.</p><p><strong>C story</strong>: The Chicago Childrens Museum's move to Grant Park has been officially <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/ct-met-childrens-museum-20111027,0,7811576.story">'scuttled.'</a> I thought that was already a given? Is there a new editor in Chicago news who hasn't been paying attention during the last year? Did they transfer someone from marketing who is taking press releases or budget proposals as first time news? This is a footnote story, not a headline. Sorry, but when the museum said they were going to propose expanding at Navy Pier, what did you think that meant?</p><p><strong>D story</strong>: I didn't know that Alderman Dick Mell was an avid reader of <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-09-28/attention-tax-man-here-are-few-more-suggestions-nex-taxes-wont-you-a">this here blog</a>. Yesterday, <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/news/cityhall/8435830-418/alderman-asks-whether-bikes-should-be-licensed.html">he recalled a post I did earlier (not by name) suggesting we license bikes</a>. If he starts fact-checking Wikipedia pages to the stars, then we might have a problem. For the record, I agree with the alderman. License bikes and ticket them if they don't stop at red lights and stop signs. Done. A trillion dollars and a city surplus. Glory days are here again. What can I say? I'm a taste maker.</p><p><strong>E story</strong>: <a href="http://www.suntimes.com/8435852-417/failure-to-shovel-snow-from-your-sidewalk-could-prove-costly.html">Alderman Tunney wants to ticket you if you don't shovel your snow</a>. You've been warned, deadbeat! Now, license dibs.</p><p><strong>F story</strong>: Zorn is covering the Cellini trial. Wants to know the <a href="http://blogs.chicagotribune.com/news_columnists_ezorn/2011/10/what-the-h-kind-of-job-is-levine.html?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+chicagotribune%2Fchangeofsubject+%28Chicago+Tribune+-+Change+of+Subject%29">right spelling and meaning</a> of wack job. Or is it whack job?</p><p><strong>Weather</strong>: Ah, the end of October. It's sideways rain time!</p><p><strong>Sports</strong>: <a href="http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/football/bears/chi-bears-release-veteran-safety-chris-harris-20111027,0,4423702.story">The Bears released Safety Chris Harris today</a>. Yikes, that's the end of the line for a guy who experts and fans believed was the permanent fix. Harris came in last year and solidified a position that was constantly underachieving. He started this year but got hurt and came back tentative. He must have had it out with coaching or something because he went from a leader of the defense to being cut in a matter of weeks. Ah, football. Lovie and Jerry Angelo seem to be very bi-polar with their players. Is Bears management disloyal? Last year, the Bears fell out of favor with their prized defensive tackle Tommie Harris. They unceremoniously cut DE's Alex Brown and Mark Anderson. Before that, they shipped their workhorse running back Thomas Jones and demoted and released star cornerback Nathan Vasher. This year, they balked on paying Olin Kreutz, Lance Briggs and of course, Matt Forte. Interesting picture.</p><p>Also, wasn't <a href="http://sports.espn.go.com/chicago/nfl/news/story?id=6646841">Chris Harris rather outspoken</a> (via Twitter) during the lockout? Payback.</p><p>Hey, if you want a great summary of the Bears vs. Bucs game from someone in attendance, <a href="http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-24/bears-are-4-3-which-according-players-and-coaches-exactly-where-they">check out W Shane Oman's take</a>. He left a comment this morning on last week's wrap-up. Great read about experiencing football abroad.</p><p><strong>Kicker</strong>: Did you see the <a href="http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-10-26/jc-brooks-and-uptown-sound-deliver-some-21st-century-soul-93493">performance of JC Brooks and the Uptown Sound in our studios</a>? Great song and video, edited by Andrew Gill:</p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" src="http://player.vimeo.com/video/31142601?title=0&amp;byline=0&amp;portrait=0&amp;color=b30000" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="601" frameborder="0" height="338"></iframe></p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 27 Oct 2011 13:53:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/justin-kaufmann/2011-10-27/occupy-chicago-wins-again-bears-listen-their-demands-release-chris-h Suburbs ask state to hold ComEd accountable http://www.wbez.org/story/suburbs-ask-state-hold-comed-accountable-93022 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-October/2011-10-10/RS2529_comed-scr.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Suburban governments are turning to the Illinois General Assembly to force utility provider ComEd to provide better response to widespread power outages.</p><p>Leaders in the <a href="http://www.nwmc-cog.org/">Northwest Municipal Conference</a> say the company needs to improve its communication with them during widespread power outages. They also want ComEd to improve its power restoration process and invest more in its electrical infrastructure.</p><p>“We don’t know, and I don’t believe ComEd has, performance measures to say that, yes, this is how long it should take to restore X outage or Y outage,” said Christopher Canning, president of the Village of Wilmette and head of the NWMC. “Our challenge to the General Assembly is that if communities are out of power — police stations, fire stations, village halls are out of power — what is an acceptable time in which ComEd has to restore those outages?”</p><p>Canning says ComEd’s slow and haphazard response to several widespread and prolonged storm-related outages over the summer hamstrung municipal efforts to bring critical safety services, like fire and emergency response, back online quickly. The Conference has submitted a white paper to legislators to ask them to create performance and accountability measures for the utility company, and to force ComEd to pay damage claims if it falls short. There is such a provision that allows outage victims to seek compensation under the Illinois Public Utilities Act, but in most cases ComEd seeks and wins exemptions from having to pay those claims.</p><p>Fidel Marquez, Senior Vice President of Customer Operations at ComEd, says the company is aligned with suburban leaders in wanting to improve its outage response. But he says setting a deadline to restore powers after storms won’t necessarily solve the problem. “Conditions may be so different and significant from storm to storm that a simple measure like that really becomes almost something that makes no sense,” said Marquez.</p><p>State Sen. Susan Garrett (D-Highwood) plans to draft legislation using the NWMC’s recommendations.</p></p> Wed, 12 Oct 2011 10:03:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/suburbs-ask-state-hold-comed-accountable-93022