Illinois regulators launch state-wide effort to understand smart grid


The state-wide effort, called NextGrid, aims to examine emerging grid technologies as well as educate policymakers around the complex economic and engineering challenges related to digitising and decentralising the grid.

According to Midwest Energy News, the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC), the state’s public utility commission, will manage NextGrid with the assistance of an unnamed “expert, independent third-party facilitator.” Stakeholders including utilities, communities, academics, environmental groups, consumer groups and other constituencies are invited to participate in the process, will culminate in reports to be published in early and late 2018.

Andrew Barbeau, a consultant retained by the Environmental Defense Fund to work on smart-grid issues, said: “Some of the key elements the Commission will be looking at over the next several years in the wake of the Future Energy Jobs Act are the factors of where on the grid different energy assets create value, when during the day and the year those assets create value, and how they create value to support reliability and efficiency.

“These are complex questions with no easy answers.”

“Utilities, advocates, academics and analysts across the country largely agree that the US power grid – the elaborate, inconspicuous web of electric production, distribution and consumption that keeps the lights on – is in dire need of an upgrade. Earlier this month, researchers at the MIT Energy Initiative published a report proposing one possible framework for regulators that aims to ‘establish a level playing field for the provision and consumption of electricity services and enable the integration of a cost-effective combination of centralized generation, conventional network assets, and emerging distributed resources, whatever that mix may be.'” writes, David J. Unger for Midwest Energy News.

Establishing the new, digitised smart grid

Unger adds that what the new power system is and how it balances a multitude of new innovations and demands, is still to be determined.

In its resolution announcing NextGrid, the Illinois Commerce Commission, said: “[T]he advent of distributed generation and storage, demand response and energy efficiency, interconnected smart devices and appliances, microgrids, electric vehicles, the use of big data and analytics, environmental objectives, and a host of new technologies, products, services—spurring the development of entirely new energy markets—is challenging existing network design, capability, and regulatory policy.

“[T]hese developments promise even greater future consumer and societal benefits as customers take advantage of emerging convergence of the electric and technology industries, and the electric system moves towards the integration of distributed energy resources and a transactional framework allowing customers opportunities to buy, sell, produce, and store electricity.”


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