Q&A: ComEd seeks more economic development in 2022

Diana Sharp is vice president of Large Customer Services and Economic Development and Workforce Development for ComEd. BY JOSHUA SEARS PHOTO INC.

By Wendell Hutson – Staff Reporter, Chicago Business Journal
January 12, 2022

Energy giant ComEd does more than supply electricity to Chicago business and residential customers.

Commonwealth Edison does more than supply electricity to customers, it also contributes to Chicago’s economic development, according to Diana Sharpe, vice president of Large Customer Services and Economic Development and Workforce Development for ComEd.

The Chicago-based energy giant announced this week it teamed up with Skybox Datacenters, a Texas-based data center provider, to help bring the company’s first data center to Illinois, a 189,000-square-foot center in Elk Grove Village, which Sharpe said will expand digital infrastructure to meet commercial data needs in the region.

On Monday ComEd outlined to investors how its capital spending outlook from 2022 until 2024 will increase by $300 million to $7.6 billion. And in November, it paid $39.5 million to buy a five-story, 52,000-square-foot Chicago office building and now plans to convert it into a substation with some space possibly for office use, according to company officials. Construction for the three-year renovation project will begin in 2023.

Sharpe talked to the Chicago Business Journal more about Commonwealth Edison's economic development plans.

What are some recent economic development projects by ComEd and what plans does the company have for this year?

Sharpe: In 2021, ComEd helped attract over 16 new projects generating over $3 billion in investments in the region. This includes six new data centers with an estimated $2 billion in capital investment for that industry alone. It’s important to note that each of these projects generates economic activity, tax dollars, and jobs for the region.

And 2022 looks to be another promising year with projects in the pipeline ranging from additional businesses and developers looking to capitalize on recent growth as a data center destination — with other growth expected in the e-commerce, indoor agriculture, and manufacturing sectors. We support all businesses that are looking to come to Illinois. So whether it’s data centers, manufacturing facilities, industrial sites, we support all types of growth. Our job is to make sure these facilities have power when they need it.

Why is ComEd converting a Chicago office building into a substation?

Sharpe: ComEd consistently looks at where we need additional power to support the growth and development in a particular area. So anytime we are putting in a new substation, it’s because we are seeing growth or anticipate growth in a particular area.

How will the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act that Gov. J.B. Pritzker signed into law last September benefit ComEd?

Sharpe: That new law really sets out some climate and energy goals, and ComEd benefits from seeing our customers getting cleaner air and embracing electricity more for energy use, which will be more reliable for them.