The months and days leading up to the Illinois Commerce Commission’s (ICC) decision, on the Bronzeville Micro-grid, was fraught with worries and fears on all sides of the debate.
Those that opposed the Micro-grid did so with the fear that ComEd’s intention is to own micro-grids throughout its service area, and the the company would seek to reverse power generation restrictions, imposed by Illinois law, to favor ComEd and disadvantage third parties. Further worries are that the approval of the ComEd Bronzeville Micro-grid would set a national precedent, thus allowing utilities to monopolize generation and transmission. On the other hand, ComEd argued, successfully, that their intention was not to own micro grids, nor to monopolize, but rather to study the effects of island micro-grids, and determine real life affects on the grid when adding, micro-grids, renewable energy sources and energy storage – Distributed Energy Resources (DER’s). ComEd also effectively contended that the research and development of a master controller and integration with the existing IIT micro-grid, if proven successful, would benefit the customers that they serve, by delivering resiliency and lower rates.
A careful reading of the approved edict from ICC, reveals that the board did a superb job by rendering a Solomon like decision that should prove to benefit both sides. Indeed, there are many more miles of road discussion and negotiating on both sides before the dust finally settles and it is determined how micro-grids will be owned and operated. One thing is certain, and both sides agree, that micro-grids are the future of energy generation and and delivery, not only in Chicago, but throughout the nation.
Finally, what is missing: In the debate leading to the final ICC decision, energy generation, energy storage, and Grid controller garnered much argument. Absent was the discussion of the impact Electric Vehicle (EV) charging will have on the grid. The impact it will have on the grid is extremely important and critical to the future of grid generation and resilience. However, EV charging did not get much attention in the debate running up to the approval. Those of us operating in the energy storage and charging sectors of electrification petitions comEd, IIT, and all stakeholders to consider deploying and studying charging stations and the major effect it will have on grids, micro-grids; whether plugged, fast, slow, or wireless.