By Dan Haley
As I sit here on Tuesday morning waiting for the wind storm of the century and the inevitability that the power will go out, I am of mixed mind about ComEd. Of course, I hate them, because that is what you do to an electric utility. Electricity costs too damned much. And then, when you really need it, it goes out.
Now how do I know that the power is about to go out at Wednesday Journal just because we are supposed to have 70 mph wind gusts for the next 24 hours? Well, because the power goes out on this block of Oak Park Avenue more regularly than Cutler throws interceptions. We've lost power twice in a month and on days of total meteorological inertia.
And just a block away, walled behind the main fire house is the electric company's North Boulevard substation. I suspect it is the root of all evil, electrically speaking. That is confirmed by a story in today's paper which leads me to the second emotion I am currently feeling toward ComEd: a little twinge of sympathy for the monopolistic monster.
Seems some court has ruled that ComEd's bold initiatives to both stabilize its teetering grid and to cloak itself in power-saving eco-greenness is illegal. Court says it can't charge all its millions of customers a fee to fund research efforts that are focused on just a small subset of its customers. And, yes, Oak Park and eight other communities were the subset.
So until ComEd can convince some other court that it has to try out new ideas somewhere to see if they work, Oak Park loses out. The North Boulevard substation was supposed to be substantially upgraded starting next month.
They were even talking about installing something called "self-healing" electrical lines around here. I think that has something to do with what happens after the squirrel dies. Even before the electrified rodent hits the ground, the electrical line has mustered all its energy, called in its chits, prayed for grace and healed itself in a way that Pat Robertson can only lust after.
Now that's lost. Along with the electric car charging stations and the beknighting of 100 local homes with solar panels. Also gone, and on this I have mixed feelings, are those occasional missives from Com Ed informing you of how your electrical usage compares with your neighbors.
Mine never compared well, and I felt deep shame. I kind of resented having an electrical monopoly cause me shame. Leave that to my church, my family.
The letters, referred to in our story as "tailored customer communications," came with bar graphs. And I always had the tallest bar graph on the block. The Haleys were guzzling electricity while all my neighbors were running their AC off of geo-thermal or cat dung. Either I'm living on a block where everyone unplugs their toaster at night, or ComEd is sending everyone on the block bar graphs showing them with outlandish consumption patterns. Neat trick.
So, for the moment, Oak Park will have to find other ways to keep its green groove. We're looking at building a green low-income apartment building on Madison. Doesn't seem to have the neighbors excited though. Perhaps we need to explain again about the garden on the roof. That'll do it.