NextGrid: The Utility of the Future Starts Now


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.

NextGrid Topic Areas

Four topic areas are named in the resolution, but are not to be considered the extent of the scope of NextGrid:

  1. Consumers, Communities and Economic Development
  2. Grid Design, Digital Networks and Markets
  3. Regulation and Encouraging Innovation
  4. Climate Change and the Environment

MEEA's Comments on NextGrid

The process is open to all public and private sector stakeholders, many of whom have already expressed their interest in this initiative by submitting comments to the ICC on the scope of NextGrid and the selection of a facilitator. Comments on these two areas were due by May 1, and nearly 50 organizations, including MEEA and MEEA members, submitted comments.

MEEA’s comments suggested including the following areas in the scope of the NextGrid study:

  • Streamline and coordinate funding and programs (including utility-delivered energy efficiency) serving economically disadvantaged customers and communities to improve the efficiency, health and safety of customers’ homes
  • Develop a voluntary, self-direct framework for large energy users – those exempted by the Future Energy Jobs Act – to conduct facility audits, implement energy efficiency improvements and report their savings to the ICC
  • Study the implications of requiring utilities and private energy project developers to implement all site-specific, cost-effective energy efficiency prior to moving forward with other distributed energy resources/non-wires alternatives projects
  • Explore a regulatory framework that allows for market change attribution as opposed to measure-by-measure attribution for evaluating market transformation purposes
  • Study ways to incorporate additional non-energy benefits into the utilities’ cost-effectiveness tests, such that the full value of energy efficiency may be captured
  • Identify and formalize a means of on-going collaboration among the ICC and the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency so that energy efficiency may be used to improve Illinois’s air quality

The final product will be a report that outlines opportunities and challenges facing the electric sector, areas of consensus and disagreement and recommendations to empower customers and drive economic development and innovation.

Other Midwest States and the Utility of the Future

Illinois is now one of several states in the Midwest exploring questions about the "utility of the future." Missouri recently held a workshop on emerging issues in utility regulation including advanced metering infrastructure, financing and rate design, while Ohio is moving forward with PowerForward. Minnesota’s E21 project completed its Phase II report in December 2016. The Ohio and Missouri efforts will be discussed in future blog posts.

MEEA looks forward to working with the ICC, our members and other stakeholders to develop analysis and a vision for the state’s electric future. For additional information, please contact Julia Friedman, MEEA’s Senior Policy Manager, at 312-784-7265 or by email at