Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Illinois foundation issues grants to educate citizens about smart meters

Steve Rogerson
January 6, 2015
The Illinois Science & Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) has announced the recipients of its latest round of grants to educate Illinois residents in the state’s transition to a digital, smart electric grid. Twelve grantee organisations will educate consumers about how they can take advantage of demand management programmes, personal energy usage data and home energy management technology to save money and energy in their homes.
Over a million Illinois residents have already received smart meters, and nearly one million additional ComEd and Ameren Illinois customers will receive smart meters in 2016.
Across the USA, aging electricity infrastructure is being updated to reduce blackouts, improve reliability and reduce carbon emissions, otherwise known as the game-changing smart grid. This means new technological features including sensors, controls and integrated communications capability, allowing real-time information to be exchanged in all parts of the grid.
Consumers will participate primarily through smart meters provided by the utility, over a million of which have been installed throughout the state. The updated smart meters will give consumers control in managing their home energy through the availability of energy usage data, and new smart home and energy management technology such as smart thermostats and home sensors.
Organisations receiving grants this cycle are 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. Additionally, the United States Green Building Council’s Illinois chapter will receive funds as part of ISEIF’s small grants programme.
The mix of programmes aims to convey the value of the smart meters and energy efficiency programmes to Illinois residents, through familiar channels such as community and faith-based organisations, universities, a K-12 curriculum, municipal governments, and public housing authorities.
“Each organisation represents a unique consumer education tactic or demographic reach,” said programme director Clare Butterfield. “By funding them, we’re supporting diverse messengers reaching consumers in multiple languages and telling them there are opportunities to reduce energy usage and save money, while solving a massive energy challenge.”
The ISEIF is committed to funding impactful programmes that build energy literacy and prompt residents to take actions to reduce their personal energy usage.
“We’re investing in the exercise of discovering which engagement methods actually cause people to reduce their energy usage, and collecting as much data as possible about that engagement over time,” said executive director Jason Blumberg. “As other states and countries shift to a smart grid, we’ll have best practices to share with them about how to get consumers, especially low-income and senior populations, engaged.”
The ISEIF is the largest independent smart grid consumer education fund in the USA, dedicated to educating Illinois consumers on the benefits of a stronger electrical system that will save residents billions by reducing outages, increasing efficiencies and providing faster restoration times.
It was formed as a part of the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernisation Act of 2011 (EIMA), or, the Smart Grid Law, which mandated the creation of a $50m fund ($5m per year over ten years) to ensure consumers understand and have access to the benefits of the new smart grid and enhanced energy literacy. The EIMA statute requires a 30 per cent allocation of total grants towards hard-to-reach populations such as low-income and seniors.