Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation Announces Grant Awards and New Grant Opportunity for Smart Grid Education

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Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF), the nation's largest, independent, dedicated smart grid consumer education fund, today announced grantees and a new small grants program. The fund supports innovative programs that reach and educate Illinois residents as the state's electric grid infrastructure undergoes modernization.

The Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation (ISEIF) announces its second cohort of grantees and a new funding opportunity for community partners. The new cohort and the new grant program for smaller, community-based organizations will fulfill ISEIF’s mission to educate consumers and help them to play an informed and active role in the modernization of the Illinois electric grid.

ISEIF was formed as a part of the Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2011 (EIMA), or, the Smart Grid Law, which mandated the creation of a $50 million fund ($5 million per year over ten years) to ensure consumers understand and have access to the benefits of the new smart grid. ISEIF’s fund is the largest independent smart grid consumer education fund in the country, 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. Specifically, the installation of digital smart grid technologies such as smart meters with two-way communication will allow people to have better insight into their electricity usage and therefore, better control of how they use their power, which is ultimately reflected in their bill.

The new grant recipients are Archeworks, Delta Institute, Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at the Illinois Institute of Technology, Kindling Group, and Shedd Aquarium. The new cohort’s activities span the areas of municipal outreach, design-based research, multimedia and “edutainment” tools, and museum audience engagement, and will augment existing and future grantee efforts by providing educational, creative and interactive tools to increase consumer engagement of smart grid technology.

ISEIF’s new small grants program will provide grants ranging from $5,000-$15,000 to nonprofit organizations that play a critical role in their communities but may lack specific smart grid expertise. Introduction of the small grants program will extend the foundation’s reach, especially to senior, low-income, and hard to reach communities and will ensure every Illinois resident is aware of the benefits of the smart grid. “ISEIF’s small grants program addresses the need for reaching diverse people in the state of Illinois through diverse means, and will accomplish this by meeting people in their own neighborhoods and communities,” said Program Director Clare Butterfield. “We think that a funded role for smaller community-based organizations will reduce barriers to information about the smart grid and new electricity model.” Illinois-based community groups, neighborhood organizations, and other nonprofit groups who have strong local ties are encouraged to apply, and ISEIF will facilitate introductions to other outreach partners. Applications for the small grants program are being accepted through September 9.

ISEIF continues to collect data on funded educational programs in an effort to measure how different approaches resonate with consumers. “Engagement at this scale, and with as diverse a demographic as that of Illinois, is unprecedented in the area of the smart grid,” said Jason Blumberg, Executive Director of ISEIF. “We have a unique opportunity to further consumer understanding of the smart grid and also beyond that, to enhance their understanding of electricity and energy use in their everyday lives. We’re supporting innovative, high-impact programs that are accessible and helpful to consumers, collecting data on the impact of these engagement strategies, and building a knowledge base as we go along.”

Nearly 4 million smart meters will be installed in ComEd territory by the end of 2018 and 780,000 will be installed in Ameren territory by 2020.

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Uzma Noormohamed
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