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Final panel, "Preparing for the Future: Challenges and Opportunities of Modernizing the Grid,"

Illinois Completes Utility of the Future Study

Conference highlighted visions of how Illinois can enhance energy delivery and power the technology and innovation revolution to promote greater economic growth and quality of life

The CEOs from Illinois’ two largest electric providers, Ameren Illinois and Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), presented their perspectives at a recent conference, NextGrid, sponsored by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).

At the conference, Richard J. Mark, chairman and president of Ameren Illinois, said:  "This is an exciting time in the energy industry. We are upgrading the electric grid at an unparalleled level and introducing new technologies in ways never before seen,”  He also commended the ICC “for initiating the NextGrid Utility of the Future study. Working together, we'll shape the future of energy development in Illinois by creating an environment that spurs innovation and delivers value to the customer."

In addition, Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO said that "the Illinois Commerce Commission has positioned its NextGrid policy study to serve as a leading think tank on 21st century energy sector reinvention, addressing the industries’ most significant issues on behalf of Illinois consumers.”  She added, "we at ComEd are enthusiastic about the study and about the track record of collaboration and consensus-building that has been a hallmark of Illinois energy policy development over several decades."

The Commission-led Utility of the Future Study comes as a follow up to a recommendation from Governor Bruce Rauner’s transition committee to explore how advances in distributive resources, energy efficiency, smart devices, micro grids, electric vehicles, big data and analytics, and other innovations will all converge to shape the future of both utilities and consumers in Illinois and the Midwest.

Commissioner Robert F. Powelson from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission offered a national perspective in his keynote address. “NextGrid is a perfect example of how government, academia, consumer and environmental advocates, and industry can work collaboratively to shape the future.”

Three expert panels offered individual presentations on a variety of topics. The first panel, moderated by Acting ICC Commissioner Sadzi Martha Oliva, was titled: A Glimpse into the Future: Emerging Trends and Technologies on the Grid. Panelists included: James Newcomb, managing director, Rocky Mountain Institute; Kyle H. Seymour, president and CEO, S&C Electric; Kyle Birkerts, CEO, Clean Energy Trust; and Eduardo Balbis, managing director for utilities, Accenture.

The panel discussed topics such as wind and solar power, storage and energy efficiency. The second panel titled: The Consumer of the Future: Empowering Communities was moderated by Dave Kolata, executive director, Citizens Utility Board. Panelists included: Robert Kelter, senior attorney, Environmental Law and Policy Center; Marty Cohen, principal, Martin Roth Cohen & Associates; Susan L. Satter, public utilities policy counsel, Office of the Illinois Attorney General and Phillip R. O’Connor, president, of PROactive Strategies. This panel discussed the potential benefits and concerns of the future grid as it relates to customer satisfaction, convenience, cost and accessibility.

The final panel titled: Preparing for the Future: Challenges and Opportunities of Modernizing the Grid was moderated by ICC Commissioner John R. Rosales. Panelists included: Jeffrey Taft, chief architect for Electric Grid Transformation, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory; Lynne Kiesling, visiting associate professor of economics at Purdue University; Susan Tierney, senior advisor, Analysis Group and former assistant secretary for policy, U.S. Department of Energy; and Tim Yardley, associate director at the Technology Information Trust Institute.

The panel discussed the regulatory and economic transitions that will be necessary as the grid becomes more interconnected, decentralized and customer-centered focusing on automation, data analytics, and cyber security. “By convening discussions like this, and by keeping an open dialogue throughout the NextGrid study, we will lay the foundation for real progress,” said Sheahan. “We are in the process of finalizing participation in NextGrid at all levels. We want to have a broad and diverse group to offer input, and highly encourage contributions from all stakeholders in the energy community.

The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) is a quasi-judicial body made up of five Commissioners. Through its Public Utility Program, the Commission oversees the provision of adequate, reliable, efficient and safe utility services at the least possible cost to Illinois citizens served by electric, natural gas, telecommunications, water and sewer public utility companies.

More information on ICC’s initiative is at this link.

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