Preparing for the Unexpected: Microgrid Planning in Illinois

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Microgrids can help keep people safe in a crisis. That’s why ongoing microgrid planning in Illinois is so important. Ken Bouche, of Hillard Heintze, explains.

Earlier this year, I had the honor and privilege of testifying in front of the Illinois General Assembly’s Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee on an issue that I feel is important to our region in many respects.

Microgrids Provide a Key Security Benefit to All of Us

The U.S. government has recognized the need for increased surety and resilience of the nation’s electric grid in order to reach goals of energy independence since the publishing of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has identified continuous power supply to our critical issues as one of the most important issues in homeland security. In the Energy Sector-Sector Specific Plan to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan (NIPP), the U.S. Department of Energy and DHS identified Energy Sector Resilience as a key element – specifically “the ability to reduce the magnitude and/or duration of disruptive events. The resilience of an infrastructure or enterprise depends on its ability to anticipate, absorb, adapt to, and/or rapidly recover from a disruptive event.”[1]  This is the key security benefit of microgrids.

The Principal Gain: Ensuring Security and Power Availability in a Crisis

Specifically, this report calls for government and industry to strengthen and leverage public-private partnerships to:

  • Present collaboration on resilience as a true partnership of equals.
  • Foster rebuilding and reconstituting of the nation’s infrastructure to enhance efficiency and resilience (e.g., smart grid development).

Microgrids and ComEd’s proposed six locations represent a critical means here in the State of Illinois of ensuring the security and availability of power in a crisis.

Five Strategic Benefits of Microgrids in Illinois

In addition to advancing our safety, microgrids will strengthen our energy infrastructure resiliency during an attack, natural disaster, or catastrophic power failure. They will also improve the quality of our electric power and assure the delivery of power to critical loads. In addition, microgrids will improve energy efficiency, make it easier to incorporate solar and wind power, and ensure that power can be directed to facilities that need it most.

But, most importantly, microgrids will reduce the vulnerability of our power supply to disruption and allow first responders and critical service provider to respond at their full capacity when an emergency strikes.

My Perspective: Remove Regulatory Barriers

The roles, rights and responsibilities of electric utilities have been protected for years by law and regulations that have been slow to reflect the positive and promising changes in our power supply environment. As a result, I have voiced support for regulatory and legislative reform because I believe the advancement of microgrids here in Illinois and across our nation improve security and safety for all of us.

Please share your thoughts with me below. Do you agree? Do you believe I am overlooking other arguments? What is your perspective?


[1]        Energy Sector-Specific Plan – An Annex to the National Infrastructure Protection Plan. 2010. Department of Homeland Security and United States Department of Energy.

Ken Bouche is Chief Operating Officer of Chicago-based Hillard Heintze, an investigation, security risk management and law enforcement advisory firm in the United States. This blog originally appeared on the company’s website.

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About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of She has been writing about energy for more than three decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.