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Illinois Commission Explores Smart Apps for Utility Operations

The session explored what steps Illinois should take to foster the right environment for app adoption.

Utility smart apps are available to help consumers better manage their energy usage and save money. Last Thursday, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) held a policy session, led by Acting Commissioner Anastasia Palivos, to examine how utility smart apps benefit utility operations and consumer engagement, potential cybersecurity concerns, and what steps Illinois should take to foster the right environment for app adoption.

“While the world continues to become more digitized and automated, utilities are also transitioning to meet existing consumer expectations. While some utilities have made efforts to provide their customers services through mobile apps, there are more opportunities to provide services and benefits to utility customers using mobile apps,” said Acting Commissioner Palivos.

The first panel, Utility Operations and Customer Engagement, was moderated by Ritta Merza, Legal and Policy Advisory for the ICC. This discussion focused on the benefits of smart apps for the utility sector and energy consumers, and the potential of these apps to help transform Illinois’ electric grid. Panelists included: Deepak Swamy, CEO (IRestore); Michael Rutkowski, Managing Director (Navigant); Kevin Dick, President (Delta Institute); Ty Benefiel, CEO (MasterGenius); Michael McCallan, VP of Emergency Planning and Electric Services (NationalGrid).

"Thursday’s policy session was a great opportunity to discuss innovations in the electric utility industry that can provide immediate and tangible benefits for customers. The panel showed ICC’s commitment to exploring new ways to create value for Illinois consumers and exemplified Illinois’ leadership in the smart energy transition," said Ty Benefiel, Co-Founder and President at MeterGenius.

“Utilities are evolving as customers demand simpler, more accessible information. Regulators, software developers, and utility staff can work together to innovate and identify cost-savings for all,” said Kevin Dick, Director at Delta Institute

“Successful mobile apps for electric and gas utilities need to demonstrate value and must be effortless for users,” said Michael McCallan, VP of Emergency Planning & Electric Services at National Grid.

The second panel, Policy Considerations for Utility Smart Apps, was moderated by Emily Brumit, Legal and Policy Advisor for the ICC. Panelists included: Jennifer Mesenbrink, Manager of EChannels (ComEd); Dave Kolata, Executive Director (Citizens Utility Board); Ellen Rendos, Director, Credit, Collections and Remittance (Nicor Gas). These experts shared their ideas to encourage app adoption and engagement in Illinois amid cyber security constraints.

Citizen Utility Board Executive Director Dave Kolata said user experience is key when designing apps for utility customers, and that smart apps can provide useful information to customers looking to cut energy usage, save money and improve the environment.

“I appreciated the chance to speak with the Commissioners and hear from my fellow panelists on their perspectives on digital customer service – what’s working, and what’s coming next. At ComEd, we are focused on understanding customers’ expectations and designing apps and online experiences that meet those needs. This was a great chance for us to share our progress,” said Jenn Mesenbrink, Manager of eChannels at ComEd.

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