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Sunday, February 23, 2020

ISEIF administers utility-funded grant program to educate consumers about smart grid technology

By Laura Wilcoxen | Jan 12, 2016


The Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) announced last week the names of organizations that will be receiving approximately $5 million in grants to promote smart grid technology across the state.

Recipients include the City of Chicago, Cook County Department of Environmental Control, Citizens Utility Board, Elevate Energy, Faith in Place, Foresight Design Initiative, Institute of Cultural Affairs USA, Illinois Green Economy Network, Illinois State University, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and the University of Illinois at Chicago. 

The United States Green Building Council’s Illinois chapter also will receive funds as part of ISEIF’s small grants program.

ISEIF was established through Illinois' Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2011 (EIMA) which state lawmakers enacted for the purpose of educating consumers on the benefits of the new smart grid electrical systems. 

The Illinois Public Utilities Act directs how much money utilities Ameren and ComEd collect from their customers and contribute to ISEIF. 

ISEIF gives grants to clean energy proponents such as the Citizens Utility Board (CUB), which lobbies legislators and litigates against utility companies. In 2013, ISEIF gave CUB $727,320; in 2014, ISEIF gave CUB an undetermined amount of money. 

ISEIF Program Director Clare Butterfield pointed out that ISEIF funds organizations for educational work. 

"We do not fund lobbying or litigation," she said. "ISEIF grantees that also provide lobbying or litigation efforts do so out of funding obtained from other sources for those purposes."

It will spend about $50 million over 10 years to promote smart grid energy concepts and consumer education regarding smart meters.

"Smart grid" is generally described by proponents as the modernization of the state's electricity infrastructure with new technology designed to enhance communication between utilities and consumers, to improve the reliability of electricity delivery, and to decrease greenhouse gases and the number of blackouts, thereby saving consumers billions of dollars.

The grant program was set up under the same statute that established ISEIF. 

“ComEd and Ameren provide $5 million annually in proportion to the sizes of their smart meter roll-outs,” said Butterfield. 

She said that ISEIF receives no state funds of any kind. 

“Our grant program is designed to support the consumer education that equips Illinois consumers, particularly low-income and low-income senior consumers, to take advantage of new smart grid technology to manage their energy use and expenses,” said Butterfield.

The multi-million dollar grant program is designed to reach consumers across Illinois.

“ISEIF expends approximately $4.5 million annually on grants to all grantees, and individual grant sizes range vary widely, depending on what types of applications ISEIF has received and its board has approved in the applicable cycle,” Butterfield said. “All grant applications are peer reviewed in advance for merit by an independent peer review committee. Grants are made to inform both ComEd and Ameren customers, and therefore reach most of the state.”

In addition to teaching consumers about the nuts and bolts of new smart grid technology, ISEIF grants are designed to encourage consumers to reduce their energy usage. The grant programs will roll out via varying channels and in multiple languages to ensure farthest reach. Outlets include public and private schools and universities, community organizations, local governments and public housing authorities.

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Organizations in this Story

Illinois State UniversityIllinois Science and Energy Innovation FoundationCitizens Utility BoardCity of Chicago