For the last century, utilities that provided safe, reliable and affordable service could be reasonably assured of their continued profitability as long as the demand for electricity continued climbing and competing outside pressures were minimized. However, in recent years, the model of hitching profits to increased infrastructure investment and greater sales is proving unsustainable in the long-term. Distributed energy resources and improved efficiency technologies are displacing increasing parts of the utility service, taking some of the revenues that go with it.
The Midwest has a strong track record of creativity and innovation: sliced bread, improv comedy, the Model T and, best of all, Post-It notes! And now we see that same spirit of innovation being pursued within the utility sector.
In my July 18 blog post, I alluded to the Missouri Public Service Commission’s (PSC) inquiry into emerging issues in utility regulation. Missouri is one of four Midwest states that have, or are undertaking, “utility 2.0” or “utility of the future” exploratory initiatives.
In April, the PSC issued an order (EW-2017-0245) opening a working case to explore five emerging issues:
As we hit mid-summer, I begin to look forward to the things I love about the fall: jackets and sweaters, my kids going back to school and four months of being up to my ears in utility data. This is the time of year that I plan for one of my most challenging annual tasks - updating MEEA’s tracking data to include the latest round of utility annual reporting on energy efficiency spending and savings. It's a labor of love that occupies much of my time September through January so we can release new estimates at our annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference in February.
On March 22, 2017, the Illinois Commerce Commission passed a resolution initiating the NextGrid Utility of the Future Study. NextGrid will be an 18-month collaborative process to explore the ways in which alternative utility regulatory models, advances in technology, and consumer preferences and engagement can shape the grid of the future. This initiative will build upon the 2011 Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act, the Illinois Statewide Smart Grid Collaborative and the recent Future Energy Jobs Act.
After more than two years of legislative proposals and negotiations, on Wednesday, December 7, Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner signed into law the Future Energy Jobs Bill (SB 2814). The bill, which contains support for renewable energy, nuclear energy and energy efficiency, was passed by the Illinois legislature on December 1, the last day of veto session, with bipartisan support and will take effect June 1, 2017.
On February 24-26, more than 650 energy professionals (a new attendance record!) gathered at the Chicago Hilton & Towers to discuss energy efficiency, the utility industry, benefits to economic development, industrial efficiency and the potential impact of state and federal regulations at the 14th annual Midwest Energy Solutions Conference. With experts and business leaders from around the globe, MES was an unparalleled opportunity to network, swap best practices and plot the future of the energy efficiency community.
This year’s MES conference tackled critical questions like: