The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) recently adopted a Resolution that will bring the “Utility of the Future” discussion to Illinois via a stakeholder engagement process known as NextGrid.

Following the lead of other states like New York, California, and Ohio, NextGrid is intended to identify new technologies and the regulatory and practical obstacles they face—all with the goal of transforming Illinoisʼ electric grid into a more efficient resource. The action shows that the State recognizes that modernizing the grid will require new players to participate in the generation, delivery, and consumption of power.

According to ICC Chairman Brien Sheahan, the pace of change in the energy industry is accelerating: “the advent of distributed generation and storage, demand response and energy efficiency, interconnected smart devices and appliances, micro-grids, electric vehicles, the use of big data analytics, environmental objectives, and a host of new technologies, products, [and] services” are spurring the development of entirely new energy markets.

To maintain Illinoisʼ long history of forward-thinking leadership on energy issues, NextGrid is intended to capitalize on the Stateʼs significant investment in smart meters and related smart grid technologies, and is expected to result in a final report late in 2018 that will include “tangible recommendations” to the ICC and the Illinois General Assembly.

The initiation of the NextGrid discussions complements the Future Energy Jobs Act legislation that was passed in December 2016. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, the legislation doubles the Stateʼs energy efficiency portfolio and should kick-start renewable energy development. The potential for increased renewables, coupled with NextGrid’s open regulatory process, is designed to attract solar and wind providers and further Illinoisʼ progressive energy policies.

The process will be managed by the ICC with the assistance of an independent third-party facilitator who will engage electric utilities and other stakeholders such as independent power producers, transmission line companies, renewables developers, retail electric suppliers, and environmental advocacy groups. Planned discussion topics include:

  • Consumers, Communities & Economic Development;
  • Grid Design, Digital Networks & Markets;
  • Regulations & Encouraging Innovations; and
  • Climate Change & the Environment.

Members of the energy stakeholder community are encouraged to contribute to the NextGrid discussions and assist in the selection of the NextGrid facilitator by filing comments by April 30, 2017.