MEEA conference: Setting the stage

EDITOR’S NOTE: Correspondent Brian Rogal is covering the Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance conference in Chicago. Click here for a complete archive of his posts.

It’s 1:15 PM and the first keynote is about to begin. The first speech given at a conference like this can get ignored. Many people are just settling in, getting their things unpacked or just poking around outside the hotel.

But the keynote could set the tone for what follows. And for that reason I’m interested in how Anne Pramaggiore, the president of ComEd, Illinois’ $6 billion utility, will kick things off.  Pramaggiore, a longtime ComEd official, has usually been associated with the company’s “green” efforts even before she took over the top job (they have a LEED-certified headquarters, for example).

But, as might be expected with a huge utility that promotes energy efficiency and other green ideas, there’s a lot of tension. ComEd rightfully says they are spending hundreds of millions of dollars over the next few years on promoting EE projects. But that did not stop them from coming out strongly against the Illinois Power Agency’s recent plan to promote energy efficiency by directly financing EE projects for big power customers like the City of Chicago.

And since the Illinois Commerce Commission shot down the IPA proposal just last month, some advocates can’t help but think that ComEd is one of the bad guys, or perhaps one of the not-so-good guys.

“There are some people at ComEd who are fearful . . . that it will tend to reduce the utility’s sales and reduce their profits,” Howard Learner, executive director of Chicago-based advocacy group Environmental Law and Policy Center, told Crain’s Chicago Business back in November.

So, will Pramaggiore refer to these disagreements within the EE community? A conference like this would seem to be a good place to air out differences. Stay tuned.

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