Starting in May, Commonwealth Edison crews will begin installing wireless meters in several DuPage County communities.
The rollout will affect customers in Wheaton, Glen Ellyn, Lombard, Warrenville, Oak Brook and West Chicago in the coming months, ComEd officials said.
The energy supplier began rolling out smart meters, which allows electricity usage to be sent electronically, in the Chicagoland area in September. These will be the company's first installations in DuPage County, according to spokesman John Schoen.
"This is sort of the leading edge of the smart meter deployment in the ComEd territory," he said. "It'll allow people to have better insight into their usage and therefore, better control of how they use their power, which can ultimately be reflected in their bill."
DuPage communities were initially scheduled to start getting smart meters next year, but ComEd has filed a petition with the Illinois Commerce Commission to accelerate the time table and start rolling them out next month, Schoen said.
Smart meters drew angry residents to Naperville council meetings for months when the city installed them on more than 57,000 homes. Last year, two people were arrested for interfering with the installation process and members of a group opposed to the meters have tried to sue the city in federal court, citing health, safety, security and privacy concerns.
The devices use wireless signals to relay information about power consumption. Proponents say they ease the strain on the electrical grid and reduce outages. The information collected by the meters, they add, make it easier for consumers to see when electricity is in low demand and less expensive. But opponents say the meters provide so much information that anyone could determine when people are home and what they do when they're there.
It is possible to opt out of ComEd's new meters, however it will cost roughly $22 a month to cover the cost of having a manual reader come out to the home, Schoen said.
Residents who choose that option can call the company.
Schoen didn't have the number of people who have opted out since the installations began, but he called it "very low."
"We will always work with the customers to try to talk to them and understand what their concerns are," he said. "There's been a multiple studies done that have indicated that smart meters are not a health hazard. In fact, your cell phone emits more radio frequency than a smart meter does."
As for privacy concerns, ComEd does not sell customer information, Schoen said. It also uses a security company that has protocols and protections similar to banks, he added.
Bill inserts informing customers of the roll outs have been sent and the week of the installations, there'll be automated phone calls, Schoen said. Installers will also knock on the doors of homes when they arrive. The process takes about 10 minutes and customers do not have to be home as long as crews can access the meter.
The installations for the affected areas are expected to be completed by October.
The Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, passed in 2011, requires ComEd to install the wireless meters for all customers in its service territory by 2022.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun