EDITOR'S NOTE: Brien Sheahan, the chairman and chief executive officer of the Illinois Commerce Commission, is a featured speaker at the November 4-6 landmark Chicago conference, Empowering Customers and Cities.
Long a leader in innovative regulatory policies, Illinois has a history of successful collaborative efforts to come to grips with evolving regulatory issues, including restructuring of the electric industry in 1996-97 which opened the door to energy competition, innovation and customer choice, and evaluating smart grid deployment in 2009-10 - the Illinois Statewide Smart Grid Collaborative.
These new dynamics of electricity supply, demand, and storage hold great promise for consumer and social benefit, all facilitated by the smart grid that is on the way toward full deployment in Illinois.
They also presents significant challenges to utilities who must integrate distributed energy resources seamlessly while maintaining efficient, safe, reliable and affordable service that meets the needs of all customers.
The transformed energy landscape also poses new challenges for customers, who must understand an expanding array of new options to make good choices, for suppliers of services who seek to enter new markets, and for regulators, who must ensure that all customers are treated fairly and that utilities maintain financial viability in the new environment.
Given the fast pace of technology advancement, the span of time continues to shorten between envisioning the Utility of the Future and actually seeing what it has to offer in the marketplace. Importantly, processes designed to ensure consumer protection must evolve and adapt to this new pace of change and continue providing effective safeguards while supporting – not hindering – innovation.
The Illinois Commerce Commission is exploring potential new approaches, including a commission and a stakeholder engagement process tasked with developing a shared base of information, engaging stakeholders and building consensus on critical issues facing the electricity utility industry in the coming decade.
I look forward to participating in your upcoming conference, “Empowering Customers and Cities,” and the opportunity to discuss this process, conceived as a non-docketed collaborative process that will conduct research and analyze Illinois’ electric industry and recommend changes to meet the evolving needs of customers and the utility systems that serve them.