Electric power systems in the United States must undergo major changes in the next several years. The direction of change will mirror that seen in the past two decades in communications, business operations, and other sectors: digital automation and networked systems (called “smart grids” in the electric industry). But the process of change will necessarily be different in this industry, because it must occur in an extensively regulated market in which ordinary market forces alone cannot, in the foreseeable future, guarantee either the adoption of beneficial technologies or an efficient and an equitable outcome for consumers. New public policies must create the platform for change. And new public understandings about the importance of this critical part of our energy infrastructure should under gird those policies. Formulating informed public policies to enable these changes requires integrating the values and viewpoints of a wide diversity of interests fairly.
Compounding both the urgency and complexity of electric power system improvements are rapidly rising energy prices, dramatic increases in the costs of power generating capacity, and deepening concern about climate change. These forces are putting increased pressure on already financially stressed families and businesses to increase the efficiency of energy use significantly.
Deployment of the smart grid, briefly explained in a companion paper, is already occurring in many states throughout the U.S. Whether and how to do so in Illinois was the focus of the Illinois Smart Grid Initiative.
Can digital smart grid technologies and business models help utilities and consumers keep electricity affordable while also making it more sustainable and reliable? If so, what changes in public policy will enable us to achieve these goals? And how will the benefits of change be shared among customers, utilities, and other energy companies? The Illinois Smart Grid Initiative was created to help answer these and other questions, and to advance consumers’ voices in the planning and implementation of change in Illinois’ electric power systems. “Consumer” here means all types and classes of electricity users’ households, small and large businesses and institutions, and units of government. And, just as change in electric power systems will introduce mutually beneficial interactions between consumers and suppliers of electricity and related services, the Initiative was premised on consumers and suppliers working together and learning from one another.
Design and Objectives
The Illinois Smart Grid Initiative formed as an independent, stakeholder-driven public- private working group (1) to engage Illinoisans in examining the nature and potential benefits of smart grids; and (2) to map a consumer-oriented policy path for achieving those benefits.
Any organization in Illinois with a stake in the electric power system and the energy future of the State was invited to join this working group. Participants were encouraged to attend all meetings of the Initiative.
Schedule of Events
The Initiative planned three one-day participant meetings. Notices and detailed agendas were distributed to participants prior to the events. Presentations were made by national experts to expand the knowledge base regarding smart grid technologies, policies, and business models. Participants’ questions and concerns guided the work of the group.
|July 8, 2008
||Introduction to the Smart Grid|
|August 5, 2008
||Dimensions of a Smart Grid Policy Plan|
|October 14, 2008
||Charting a Course to a 21st Century Electric System|
Web Site and Report
The Initiative created and maintains a web site where smart grid resources can be searched and all presentations and reports of the Initiative are posted. A final report of the work of the Initiative is now available to the public and presented to State policy makers. The web site for the project is: www.ilsmartgrid.org
Organization and Funding
The Illinois Smart Grid Initiative is hosted by the Center for Neighborhood Technology and was funded in part by the Galvin Project, Inc.