The Illinois Commerce Commission Announces NextGrid Initiative to Advance Energy Policies That Will Empower Customers and Foster Economic Development
The Illinois Commerce Commission ("ICC") recently announced a significant initiative entitled "NextGrid," designed to explore technological advancements and potential revisions to the existing utility and regulatory models. The ICC's announcement set in motion an 18-month collaborative process that provides an opportunity for stakeholders to help shape a "21st Century regulatory model" that supports innovation, empowers customers and communities, and drives economic development in the state.
The ICC Resolution establishing the NextGrid process prominently notes that Illinois has been a leader in energy policy and innovation, and that Illinois' competitive energy market has saved Illinois electricity consumers tens of billions of dollars. Given that background, NextGrid is intended to be a collaborative, statewide study to identify new technologies that will modernize the state's electric grid and identify regulatory and legislative actions that can be taken to transform the way utilities, regulatory bodies, and consumers interact with the electric utility system in order to maximize benefits for the Illinois economy and the state's citizens.
The NextGrid initiative follows on the heels of the December 2016 enactment of the Future Energy Jobs Act ("FEJA"), the most significant Illinois energy legislation since the state deregulated its electricity market in 1997. FEJA redefines major aspects of Illinois energy markets, from renewable energy incentives, to energy efficiency program management and financing changes, to subsidies for certain nuclear plants. Through the NextGrid initiative, the ICC indicates that it seeks to identify and explore technology advancements, utility and regulatory models, and issues or challenges related to the new energy market landscape created by FEJA.
NextGrid seeks to address these issues by bringing together stakeholders and advocates from across the energy markets to address the rapidly developing issues facing the electric utility industry. The ICC's Resolution invites parties to identify additional topics to be addressed in the NextGrid process, but identifies the following topics that will be studied:
- Consumers, Communities, and Economic Development;
- Grid Design, Digital Networks, and Markets;
- Regulation and Encouraging Innovation; and
- Climate Change and the Environment.
The ultimate goal of the NextGrid initiative is to educate policymakers and provide recommendations "aimed at empowering customers and communities, driving economic development, optimizing the electric utility industry, and creating a 21st Century regulatory model that supports innovation." The NextGrid process will be jointly managed by the ICC and an independent third-party facilitator, whose work will be funded by Illinois electric utilities. An interim report outlining the issues, challenges, and opportunities is expected in early 2018, while the final report will be presented by the end of 2018.
Initial comments relating to the scope and substance of issues to be addressed in the NextGrid process, as well as selection of the third-party facilitator, are to be filed by April 30, 2017. If you are interested in participating in the NextGrid process, or would like more information on NextGrid or FEJA, please contact Chris Townsend (312.517.7555; CTownsend@ClarkHill.com) or Chris Skey 312.517.7515; CSkey@ClarkHill.com).