Illinois Commerce Commission report supports IOUs seeking IIJA funds

Published on September 08, 2022 by Kim Riley

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The Illinois Commerce Commission (ICC) stands ready to support the state’s public utilities, including the Ameren Illinois Co., and the Commonwealth Edison Co., also known as ComEd, in gaining federal funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), according to a newly released ICC Notice of Inquiry (NOI) Report.

The commission’s NOI report — which is not a rulemaking and is non-decisional in nature, according to the ICC — also summarizes information collected by the state’s IOUs and other stakeholders about which federal grants, loans, assistance, and programs under IIJA that they may be eligible for and intend to apply. 

“As we work to implement the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act here in Illinois and move toward a cleaner, more modernized grid, the ICC is encouraging the utilities to take advantage of these federal dollars wherever possible to keep costs down for ratepayers,” said ICC Chairman Carrie Zalewski on Wednesday. 

“Within the report, the regulated utilities and other stakeholders identified funding opportunities that might be suitable to help Illinois achieve its zero-emission goals and pledged to continue to monitor and evaluate additional funding opportunities, requirements and processes,” Zalewski said.

In the NOI report, ICC staff also recommended that the commission require the state’s public utilities to regularly report to the ICC on any IIJA-related support they apply for, receive, or assist in.

“Several funding opportunities that may be applicable to the state, public utilities, or other eligible recipients are expected to be open for applications this year and in 2023,” concludes the NOI Sept. 1 report. “It was thus suggested by more than one party that the commission require the public utilities to continue to monitor IIJA opportunities and periodically report to the commission on the status of potential or actual applications and the deployment of funds received.” 

Beginning in 2023 through 2027, any Illinois investor-owned utility (IOU) providing service to more than 15,000 customers should report to the ICC by the last day of every January and July on the IIJA grants, loans, partnerships, agreements, funding, or other program support applied for or received, the NOI report says.

This would include Ameren Illinois and ComEd, both of which responded to the NOI issued in June by the ICC. Other NOI respondents included the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance, the Northern Illinois Gas Co., the Laborers International Union-Midwest, and many others.

Additionally, IOUs also should report on any IIJA funding assistance program wherein the public utility is not a direct recipient but in which the utility has assisted eligible applicants to obtain funding for projects that will have a direct benefit to Illinois ratepayers, according to the NOI report, which notes that such information could then be made public by the commission on its website.  

In the original NOI, the ICC sought input on ways it and the State of Illinois might help them secure federal resources from the IIJA, which provides for approximately $500 billion in federal funding for infrastructure improvements, including public utility infrastructure such as electric generation, clean energy transmission and deployment, electric vehicle infrastructure, grid reliability, energy efficiency, and access to clean water and cybersecurity. 

“Federal funds are available through the IIJA to help states like Illinois to improve energy efficiency programs, expand the deployment of electric vehicles, prevent outages, and protect the grid from cyberattacks,” ICC Commissioner Ann McCabe said in a statement. “We expect this report will prompt more collaboration and coordination among the utilities, industry and trade groups, state agencies and other stakeholders to maximize efforts to obtain these funds.” 

ICC Commissioner Michael Carrigan said yesterday that the commission appreciates the time everyone took to participate in the NOI, and pointed out that the subsequent report will be “very useful” to regulators, policymakers and the utilities. 

“There is a great deal of competition among the states, and we want to make sure Illinois receives its fair share of these federal dollars and money is not being left behind,” Carrigan said.