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Anne Pramaggiore's Energy Ecosystem

Vision of the future the urban power business

EDITOR'S NOTE: Anne Pramaggiore, ComEd president and CEO, recently co-chaired The Energy Times executive conference, Empowering Customers & Cities. This is the first of a four-part series based on her opening keynote address. Next week: "The New Energy Order - Chicago Style."

Chicago’s history is significant to the energy industry.

As a result of Thomas Edison sending his first lieutenant, Sam Insull, here to sell light bulbs, it’s the birthplace of the electric industry’s 100-year old business and operating model. 

While this model has demonstrated great resiliency, it never contemplated digital technology or renewable and distributed energy resources like solar and wind.  So it’s about time for a change in this model and with home field advantage and all due respect to Mr. Insull, we at ComEd feel empowered, like my fellow utilities and technologists here today, to be among those who reinvent it.  

And we believe the reinvention has begun.

Marty Rosenberg, editor of The Energy Times, with Anne Pramaggiore, of ComEd.

We are so fortunate today to have with us one of the world’s leading thinkers on reinvention – Jeremy Rifkin.  Mr. Rifkin sees the era of change we are entering as nothing less than a revolution – the Third Industrial Revolution.  And like the first two industrial revolutions, this one is triggered by monumental shifts in communications and energy technologies.  

The convergence of digital communications, transportation and logistics and renewable and distributed energy – creating the ultimate in network economics, the Internet of Things – has the capacity to create an energy ecosystem that will insure we have a road map to address one of the millennium’s most pressing questions: how do we create a service that preserves the main ingredients of the 20th century recipe for prosperity – cheap and reliable power – while addressing the ultimate challenge of this millennium – rehabilitation of the planet’s atmosphere, oceans and land.

According to Mr. Rifkin, this convergence has another significant impact, as well.  And that is a shift from command and control, top-down, vertical economic organization to lateral scale – peer to peer interaction – constantly evolving markets  – and growing communal activity.

As Jeremy Rifkin presents, Richard Riazzi, president and chief executive of Duquesne Light Company in Pittsburgh, left, listens.

According to Mr. Rifkin, “The coming together of the Communications Internet, the Energy internet and the Logistics internet in an Internet of Things provides the cognitive nervous system and physical means to integrate all of humanity in an interconnected global commons that extends across the entirety of society.”

By 2050, it’s estimated that 70 percent of the world’s population will live in cities.   Thus, as the platform most likely to deliver the greatest benefit to the most people, the cities of the future will determine quality of life for the vast majority of people on the planet. 

To deliver the most to the most, cities will have to develop entirely new modes for living, working, building, and of course, producing and distributing energy.

We believe Chicago has several attributes that position it be one of the leaders of this industry reinvention.

First, because Chicago has a history of invention and reinvention.  This is the city that rose from the ashes literally and figuratively, time and time again.  

Because Chicago is the birthplace of markets – the Futures Market, one of the country’s first and most robust energy markets, and environmental markets, like the Chicago Climate Exchange in 2003.  And markets are the ultimate in lateral scale and peer to peer interaction.

And because Chicago is a City of neighborhoods, each with its own distinct identity, and diverse perspectives and people. 

Neighborhoods are the perfect building blocks in a revolution that generates lateral and communal interaction.

Invention, markets, neighborhoods will lead us into a new energy order.

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