ICC Releases NextGrid Draft Final Report

By: | January 03, 2019

Illinois’ electric grid and utility market over the next few decades will be determined by NextGrid, known as the “Illinois Utility of the Future Study.”  This 18-month, collaborative study grew out of the December 2016 enactment of the Future Energy Jobs Act (“FEJA”) and has been overseen by the Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC).  

BOMA/Chicago advocates on behalf of the commercial office building industry with the belief that reliable energy at a lower cost is critical for a robust and competitive business climate in the City of Chicago.  BOMA/Chicago representatives were active participants in NextGrid working groups and deliberations during the entire process.   

The ICC released its 265-page NextGrid Draft Final Report in mid-December. However, not all of positions and comments submitted by BOMA/Chicago are reflected in the draft report.

The report is organized as anticipated, including an Introductory Chapter, seven substantive chapters (one for each working group), and Concluding Remarks.  It includes 112 footnotes, 9 Appendices (including the BOMA/Chicago Stakeholder Perspective), and 21 figures and charts. There is only approximately one page of text dedicated to “Grid Modernization and Very Large Commercial and Industrial Customers” (starting in the middle of page 143). 

There were a number of generalized recommendations in the study. For example:

  • The growing prominence of distributed energy resources (DERs) and other smart grid technology elements necessitates formulation of new rules, procedures, and appropriate policies.
  • Modernization should consider actions that cost-effectively ensure that the grid operates as intended and adapts to future needs while remaining reliable, resilient, and secure.
  • The ICC should create a process with a vision and develop a roadmap to explore retail market design.

The above is only a sampling of the report contents, but the generic nature of the recommendations in the report may allow them to be used rhetorically in support of a variety of proposals and they are also subject to differing and conflicting interpretation.

  1. Invest in electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure;
  2. Incentivize “utilities or other entities” to deploy energy storage resources (ESRs);
  3. Enact customer privacy protection regulations for granular customer data.

The Concluding Remarks of the Draft Final Report references some consensus reached by the participants:

Given the wide array of participating stakeholders in the seven WGs, it is not surprising that so many perspectives were expressed during the lengthy deliberations. As such, the apparent lack of agreement among the participants is expected. However, there is little doubt, notwithstanding the large number of views—some of which, at times, rather polarized, that the participating stakeholders have much in common. There is very broad interest in active participation to mitigate climate change impacts in every possible way. Virtually, all participants share the goal to make the grids greener through the continued integration of deeper penetrations of renewable energy resources (RERs) so as to reduce emissions. Stakeholders share the desire to pursue sustainable ways to meet energy needs. There is broad interest in adopting advances in technology to make the grids smarter, to deploy more sensors to improve visibility and situational awareness, to deploy analytics and data with finer granularity to provide enhanced information and to extend the benefits of cleaner and environmentally sensitive electricity by various electrification targets. Many stakeholders are clamoring for more customer education and training to take advantage of what the modernized grid offers. Indeed, it is clear that many stakeholders are keenly interested in the provision of help to customers to use technology to transform energy into creation of new opportunities. The affordability of electricity was also emphasized throughout all the deliberations.

However, subsequent language emphasizes the failure of the stakeholders to agree, and calls for the creation of a collaborative framework to move forward:

The previous seven chapters make amply clear that there is considerable disagreement on nearly every aspect of grid modernization among the participating stakeholders. As such, there is no shortage of challenges in the push to pursue advancements on the grid modernization front. Certainly, regulators and policy makers, utilities, vendors, electricity sector entities, customers, public interest groups, consultants, academics and other interested stakeholders have widely different goals and objectives, some of which may conflict with one another, as they consider their expectations from the modernized grid.

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The challenge is to create a collaborative framework under which all the diverse stakeholders can participate in a meaningful way. This may not be an easy process but is doable and so must be done. In this way it is possible to continue to make progress on the grid modernization front. As the beneficial outcomes of the modernized grid impact every stakeholder, there is every reason to pursue a joint collaborative process to ensure the achievement of a modernized and decarbonized grid to supply safe, reliable, resilient, cost-effective, sustainable and secure electricity services.

The ICC will accept comments through January 10, 2019. 

BOMA/Chicago staff and its NextGrid consultants continue to review the ICC's report. BOMA/Chicago has also engaged Mark Pruitt and his consulting firm, Power Bureau, to complete a BOMA/Chicago white paper which will be incorporated into public comments that BOMA/Chicago will submit. It is notable that the ICC’s report did not include any discussion of costs associated with its specific and generalized recommendations and omitted references to a report that calculated billions of dollars in savings to Illinois consumers resulting from consumer choice. BOMA/Chicago’s white paper will highlight cost elements that were identified and discussed in the NextGrid process.