08/09/2011 02:36 pm ET | Updated Oct 09, 2011

ComEd Says Smart Meters Could Save Customers $2.8 Billion Over 20 Years, Despite Short-Term Rate Hikes

Despite short-term rate hikes, ComEd customers throughout northern Illinois could experience long-term savings of $2.8 billion with the implementation of smart meters, the company announced Monday.

The analysis, completed by Black & Veatch, was ordered after the Illinois Commerce Commission approved the Exelon company's smart meter pilot program, which tested the technology on more than 120,000 customers in the Chicagoland area over the course of one year, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

The savings would come through eliminating manual meter reading, delivering more accurate bills to customers, reducing the number of service calls and visits and more generally enhancing communication between the company and its customers. The $2.8 billion in savings are in addition to the savings that customers would experience by using the smart meters to more closely monitor their energy usage, according to the company.

"Smart meter system technology can improve service, help customers make more informed decisions about energy use, and contribute to lower energy costs," ComEd president and chief operating officer Anne Pramaggiore said in a statement.

The program would also foster an improved company response to power outages, such as the unprecedented summer storm that, on July 11, knocked out power to over 850,000 of their customers, LaGrange Patch reports. Some customers were left in the dark for days. Had the program been in place, a company spokeswoman recently said in a LaGrange board meeting, nearly one-quarter fewer of those customers -- 200,000 -- would have been affected by service disruption.

But ComEd's smart meter program still faces an uphill political battle in order to become a reality. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn has promised to veto the rate increase and described the program as "really about locking in guaranteed, significant annual profits for the utility companies without any real oversight by the Illinois Commerce Commission," the Sun-Times reports.

According to NBC Chicago, ComEd recently ranked as the 112th-best utility in terms of overall performance by J.D. Power and Associates. The company ranked dead last in customer service.