2018 CAE Q1 Recap: Resiliency, Critical Infrastructure, and Microgrids

-Grant van Wyngaarden

Highlight video

On March 1, 2018, Chicago Advanced Energy held its Stakeholder Breakfast on the topic of Resiliency, Critical Infrastructure, and Microgrids. The packed room was sold out almost two weeks prior to the event thanks to the high calibre of discussion leaders that sparked a lot of anticipation.  Before the discussion leaders started their thought provoking presentations, the audience was treated with opening remarks from:

Chris Wheat, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago

Chris Wheat, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Chicago

To start the theme of the morning’s dialogue, Chris Wheat reminded the audience of Chicago’s steadfast commitment to carbon emission reductions aligned with the Paris climate accord despite setbacks in the broader political environment.  This dedication is critically important because of Chicago’s leadership position for the entire mid-west.  Chris ended his remarks with a request of the audience: through the morning’s dialogue, prepare a memo to be placed on the Mayor’s desk with recommendations addressing the topic of energy resiliency and sustainability.


Following the opening remarks, HG Chissell - CEO of Advanced Energy Group, introduced the event’s topic and welcomed each distinguished discussion leader:

Sadzi Martha Oliva, Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission

Sadzi Martha Oliva, Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission

Commissioner Oliva covered the regulator’s role in grid resiliency and critical infrastructure, which as she emphasized is an important consideration when planning the grid of the future.  The mission of the Illinois Commerce Commission in this regard is to ensure adequate, efficient, reliable, safe, and least-cost public utility services.  Commissioner Oliva highlighted that the state has been set for a resilient grid in Illinois through the Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act (EIMA, 2011) and the Future Energy Jobs Act (FEJA, 2017) that includes at least 4,300 MW of new solar and wind generation by 2030 and a goal of 25% renewables by June 2025.  To complete her remarks, Commissioner Oliva touched on the timeline for the NextGrid Working Groups, which is the 18-month, consumer-focused Utility of the Future Study.

York Chan of Advocate Health Care represents the energy planning and operation of 12 acute hospitals in Illinois, which consumed 231 million kilowatt hours of electricity and 12 million therms of natural gas in 2017.  Advocate Health Care is fully committed to sustainability, for example York highlighted the 108-year old Chicago Masonic hospital that has an Energy Star rating of 95 and consumes 150,000 btu’s per square foot (the average US hospital consumes 260,000 btu’s per square foot).  The remainder of York’s presentation focused on the reliance on electrical reliability for delivering successful clinical outcomes.  Today’s high-tech equipment in hospitals are vulnerable to power bumps, spikes, and voltage fluctuations, as a result the number one concern for Healthcare Facility Managers is the loss of electricity.  Achieving sustainability goals without sacrificing reliability is a tall order, but York and his team exceeded the 20% energy consumption reduction target for 2010 – 2015 and is now tasked with an additional 20% reduction by 2025.


Andy Hesselbach, VP of Construction for People’s Gas, started his presentation noting the technological advances that have improved the construction and maintenance of gas infrastructure.  One example is the City of Chicago’s dotMaps, which is a web application based on Google maps that provides details on all work happening in the city, including access to schedules, permits, and the ability to load drone footage and real-time photos.  This and other technologies will continue to aid the construction and maintenance of resilient infrastructure through cost and times saving benefits.

Jason Borg, Deputy District Commander, USACE Chicago District

Jason Borg, Deputy District Commander, USACE Chicago District

Jason Borg of the US Army Corps of Engineers reminded the CAE audience of Executive Order 13653 (2013), which mandates the Federal Government to manage risks with deliberate preparation, cooperation, and coordination to effectively improve climate preparedness and resilience.  The Corps focuses on resilience through the PARA Principles: Prepare, Absorb, Recover, and Adapt.  An example Jason discussed is the recently completed McCook Reservoir Stage I, which is estimated to save $114 million annually in flood damage and Combined Sewer Overflow pollution reductions.  This megaproject was completed through a collaboration between the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago (MWRD) and Black & Veatch.


Ameren Illinois has an essential role in Chicago’s energy resilience conversation and Rick Welton, Senior Director, highlighted the rapidly changing energy generation and consumption environment and the impacts this has on energy resiliency.  Ameren Illinois is investing $643 million to improve reliability of the electric distribution system., projects include: installation of two way “Smart Meters”, Advanced Distribution Management Systems (ADMS), and Automated Switches.  Additional Ameren Illinois projects have increases grid reliability by 17% and saved customers an estimated $45 million each year.  Ameren Illinois built a microgrid in Champagne Illinois in 2016 to learn about Distributed Energy Resource (DER) integration, this microgrid serves an entire distribution circuit with 200 local customers and consists of:

  • 100 kW of wind generation

  • 2x 500 kW reciprocating natural gas generators (built by Caterpillar)

  • 125 kW solar photovoltaic generation

  • 250 kW / 500 kW lithium ion battery storage (built by S&C Electric and LG Chem)

  • Controllers manufactured by IPERC and Schneider Electric

Joel Williams of Booz Allen Hamilton stressed the importance of cyber security as a crucial component of energy resiliency due to the risks of cyber threats on energy infrastructure.  A feature of Joel’s presentation was the key measures to assess cyber security programs, which should incorporate compliance metrics, detect time, containment time, and remediation time.  Joel stressed the importance of threat detection, since you cannot defend against the threat you cannot defend.  Mean Time to Detect (MTTD) is the industry metric for detection time and the average MTTD of companies in the US is 214 days.  Joel promoted Booz Allen Hamilton’s Managed Detection and Response service that takes 60 minutes to detect attacks.

US Green Building Councils’ PEER rating system grades energy infrastructure on resilience in a similar manner to the widely adopted LEED standard. Jaime Statter introduced the CAE audience to this new USGBC program that aims to create a community of professionals committed to resiliency.

After the discussion leader presentations, participants started the breakout session discussions with the objective of delivering a memo to the Mayor of Chicago.  Each table was tasked with identifying and defining the three (3) most critical points for CAE to include in the memo that addresses the question:

How do we build the social capital to pay for localized resiliency while meeting Greater Chicago’s climate goals: 100% by 2050?


Following the comprehensive discussions, each table presented their three points and recommendations based on the dialogue they just had.  With a total of 9 tables and 6-8 stakeholders at each, the outcome of the breakout sessions was exceptionally rich and provided CAE with the insight needed to deliver a meaningful memo.


The second quarter Chicago Advanced Energy Stakeholder Breakfast will be held on May 31, 2018 and will cover the topic of: Smart Buildings and Grid Modernization.  More details can be found here.


Advanced Energy Group is a stakeholder member-supported organization committed to developing and delivering advanced energy policies and solutions in key cities.  Stakeholder sessions are by invitation only.  For details of our programming please visit:

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