NextGrid Takes Center Stage
The passage of last year’s Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA) led to the creation of NextGrid, an 18-month, collaborative study initiated by the Illinois Commerce Commission to help define the “utility of the future” in Illinois in response to technological, market, and regulatory changes.
Utilities, regulators, environmental groups and consumers will be gathering on Thursday, September 28 at the University of Illinois at Chicago Forum for the NextGrid Kick-Off event. NextGrid grew out of the December 2016 enactment of the Future Energy Jobs Act ("FEJA"), which redefines major aspects of Illinois energy markets. It is an 18-month, collaborative study initiated by the Illinois Commerce Commission to help define the “utility of the future” in Illinois in response to technological, market, and regulatory changes.
While NextGrid presents an opportunity for a wide variety of energy market participants, it also poses significant risks for energy consumers including BOMA/Chicago members. The process is designed to influence the next stage in restructuring the Illinois energy markets. NextGrid will most likely set the agenda for nearly all of BOMA/Chicago’s energy advocacy efforts for the next several years and may bring about the most substantial changes to all components of the energy market, utilities and the regulatory community. It is anticipated that at the conclusion of the process, at the end of 2018, the resulting report will be the basis for far-reaching energy legislation in the General Assembly.
“Everything that happens in Illinois regarding energy legislation and regulation in the next several years is likely to happen under the NextGrid umbrella,” says Ron Tabaczynski, BOMA/Chicago’s Director of Government Affairs. “We have been actively engaged in coalition-building activities in preparation for the policy initiatives that will be debated throughout the NextGrid process.”
Many analysts see the NextGrid process as an attractive vehicle for Exelon, ComEd, and other utilities to reintroduce the projects and polices that they were unsuccessful in passing as part of last year’s FEJA, which will still account for a 10% increase in utility bills. BOMA/Chicago was the only trade association representing the interests of large non-industrial commercial energy consumers during last year’s legislative action on FEJA.
While the centerpiece of that legislation, a bailout to Exelon, was narrowly passed by the legislature, BOMA/Chicago, working with other stakeholders, was successful in removing other onerous provisions that would have driven energy bills even higher. “Without significant and dedicated effort, this effort will be dominated and driven by the utilities and well-funded environmental organizations,” says Michael Munson, BOMA/Chicago’s energy counsel.
The NextGrid process kicked off on September 28 and BOMA/Chicago will be continue to participate in the dialogue as the process unfolds.