Supporters of the proposed rule said they’re still hopeful regulators will eventually adopt the change, which they think will help utilities keep pace with the technological changes needed to manage an increasingly complex electric system.
Cloud-based software is usually provided as a subscription service from an outside developer. Since the software comes from a third party, it is often more easily updated and can save utilities time and money compared to onsite software.
However, traditional accounting rules usually require utilities to count cloud-based software as an operating expense. This means they can’t earn a rate of return on the investment like they can with traditional software, which they can invest in as a capital expense. The rule proposed in Illinois would have allowed ComEd and Ameren, along with the state’s other regulated utilities, to account for cloud software like they would onsite software, giving them the opportunity to earn money from investments.
The Illinois General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Administrative Rules in June raised an objection to the proposal, requesting more information from the commission on how it could affect customers. But by state law, the rule, introduced in 2018, would have had to go into effect by early July of this year. Given the tight deadline, the commission voted on June 26 to withdraw the proposal and resubmit the rule later to allow time to address the committee’s objection.
The joint committee “recommended that the [Illinois Commerce Commission] resubmit the rule after some additional review. We’re hopeful that ICC will do so,” Danny Waggoner, a director at Advanced Energy Economy, an energy industry association, wrote in an email.
Illinois’ clean energy goals will require utilities to process huge data sets from renewables, storage and efficiency programs, he said. “This task can far more efficiently and effectively be accomplished through leveraging the scale and cost of cloud computing rather than utilities investing in their own vast data centers and developing the internal expertise to provide these functions.”
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