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Midwest Public Utility Commissioners Gather to Discuss Distribution System Planning for a Modern Electricity Grid

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[Chicago, August 16, 2016] – Public utility commissioners from across the Midwestern states gathered today in Chicago to discuss distribution system planning for the 21st Century electric grid in light of technology advancements, the growth of distributed energy resources (like storage, demand response and solar) evolving customer expectations, and the evolution of planning processes. The gathering of 12 commissioners from six Midwest states (Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, and Wisconsin) also discussed related issues around rate design and utility business models. Session topics were selected in advance by the commissioners.

The Advanced Energy Economy Institute Midwest PUC Forum was co-hosted by Chairman Daniel Hall, Missouri Public Service Commission; Vice Chair Nancy Lange, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission; Chairman Brien Sheahan, Illinois Commerce Commission; Chairman Sally Talberg, Michigan Public Service Commission; and Commissioner Beth Trombold, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.

“It is critically important for public utility commissions to proactively ask if we are planning for and investing in the distribution system that will meet our future needs,” said Vice Chair Nancy Lange, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission. “Our modern electricity system should be reliable, use resources efficiently, maximize customer benefits, and successfully implement public policy goals."

“The AEE Institute Midwest PUC Forum is an important opportunity for commissioners to discuss how issues around distribution system planning, rate design and utility business models interact,” said Illinois Commerce Commission Chairman Brien Sheahan. “Planning the most cost-effective, value-driven, next generation electricity system requires informed policy makers sending the right economic signals to customers and utilities.”

“It’s invaluable to share ideas and best practices with fellow commissioners across the region as we face many of the same challenges and issues,” said Chairman Daniel Hall, Missouri Public Service Commission. “Hearing from experts about the latest technologies and planning tools, and electricity system challenges and opportunities is very helpful.”

“I liked the discussions of why and what to plan for—starting with identifying the commission's strategic objectives and then thinking through the various advanced energy technologies and their capabilities for meeting those objectives,” said Chairman Sally Talberg, Michigan Public Service Commission. “In Michigan for example, we're actively looking at how we can lower system costs by reducing peak load and we're exploring how we can do that through various advanced energy technologies from reducing demand to deploying advanced meters that enables smarter rate design."

"Kids in college today have only ever known a world with the Internet—for them and the rest of us, technology is the wave of the future,” said Commissioner Beth Trombold, Public Utilities Commission of Ohio. “These discussions with colleagues and experts help inform to what extent we should invest in new technologies and how to assess the pay-off."  

This meeting was the fifth in a series of regional forums held in cooperation with utility commissioners and facilitated by the AEE Institute.

Discussions covered the latest advanced energy technologies including advanced metering infrastructure, demand response, smart inverters, energy storage and microgrids. Participating experts included Paul DeMartini of ICF, Forrest Small of Bridge Energy Group, Chris King of Siemens, Greg Poulos of EnerNOC, John Berdner of Enphase Energy, Tesla’s Mateo Jaramillo, and David Chiesa of S&C.

“The AEE Institute is proud to work with state commissioners to facilitate these important conversations about innovations in the way we generate, distribute, consume and save energy,” said Lisa Frantzis, senior vice president for strategy at Advanced Energy Economy. (Ms. Frantzis co-facilitated discussions at the daylong meeting.) “We look forward to continuing to engage with state regulators across the nation and discuss ways to effectively regulate and make investments in our changing electric power system.”

The AEE Institute’s Advanced Energy PUC Forums are part of a broader effort to engage industry and regulators in addressing key challenges and opportunities facing the utility sector. Advanced Energy Economy has also held a series of 21st Century Electricity System CEO Forums and follow-on Working Groups in which executives of utility companies, advanced energy companies, and regulators in various states recommend new business and regulatory models to encourage the adoption of advanced energy technologies in the power sector. Together, the AEE and Institute programs are helping to define pathways toward new products and services, network infrastructure and operational models, and regulatory frameworks that will provide consumers with a more robust, resilient, dynamic, and consumer-oriented power system. 

About the AEE Institute
The Advanced Energy Economy Institute (https://www.aee.net/aeei) is a nonprofit educational and charitable organization committed to raising awareness about the public benefits of advanced energy. The AEE Institute is affiliated with Advanced Energy Economy (www.aee.net), a national association of businesses that are making the energy we use secure, clean, and affordable. The AEE Institute helps to spread the word about advanced energy and its value in moving the country and the world toward a better energy future.

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Media Contact: 

Monique Hanis
Director, Media Relations & Publications
Advanced Energy Economy
The business voice of advanced energy

1000 Vermont Ave., N.W., Third Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005
202-391-0884 | mhanis@aee.net | www.AEE.net | @AEEnet @GreenerMonique