Request for Information on Electricity Franchise - Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Franchise Agreement?
An electricity Franchise Agreement grants rights to use the public right of way to install, maintain, and operate the wires, poles, and other infrastructure required to deliver electricity to residents and businesses across the city. There is currently one electricity Franchise Agreement with Commonwealth Edison, ComEd, which took effect on January 1, 1992.
What is a Request for Information?
A Request for Information (RFI) is an invitation for information, interest, recommendations and suggested solutions to a particular subject matter and support better understanding of market conditions. The RFI also provides the City’s goals, objectives and proposed process for a project.
What is the Energy and Equity Agreement?
The Energy and Equity Agreement is a proposed agreement accompanying the Franchise Agreement to ensure that when the next franchise takes effect, there are meaningful benefits and programs for Chicago communities. Future franchisees will be expected to address years of inequitable infrastructure investment, assess efficacy of programs alongside community stakeholders, and execute strategies that enable all customers to participate in the clean energy transition. By comparison, the Franchise Agreement focuses on provisions related to infrastructure access and use of the public way to deliver safe, reliable, and affordable energy.
How can the public provide input in process?
RFI responses will be publicly posted to this page. Chicago residents are invited to submit comments on the submissions or offer other suggestions about the City’s Electricity Franchise by writing FranchiseFeedback@cityofchicago.org.
By when does the City need to negotiate a new Franchise and Energy and Equity Agreement?
The current franchise with ComEd expired on December 31st, 2020. However, it included a “rollover provision” which allows the current Franchise Agreement to stay in place until a new agreement is established.
How will the Franchise Agreement help the City reach its 100% renewable energy goals?
By state law, the utility that delivers electricity to consumers is not allowed to generate electricity. This is because Illinois, as well as a number of other states, has a “deregulated” energy market. The Franchise Agreement remains important, however, for achieving the City’s 100% clean renewable energy goals. It can support the goal through strategies such as: minimizing financial barriers to solar adoption, expanding energy efficiency programs, and upgrading parts of the grid to ensure that all communities can access clean renewable energy.
How does this process impact reliability of electricity delivery?
This will have no impact on reliability. Until a new franchise agreement is reached with ComEd or another party, ComEd will still be held to the same high standards of service. Any new franchise, whether with ComEd or another provider, will also ensure continued reliability and safety. In addition, all public utilities are closely regulated by the Illinois Commerce Commission and are held to specific standards to ensure safe, reliable service.
What if the City wants to create its own municipal energy authority?
The City will retain the right to create its own municipal energy authority.
How does a company or organization respond to the Request for Information (RFI)?
RFI Respondents are requested to submit one (1) PDF copy of the requested information via e-mail to: ElectricityFranchise@cityofchicago.org by Friday, September 30, 2021 at 4:00 p.m. All questions concerning this RFI should be directed to ElectricityFranchise@cityofchicago.org.
Questions from Virtual Town Hall on July 19, 2021
In light of the climate crisis, what steps is the City taking to switch to 100% carbon-free electricity, and by what date?
The City is pursuing a goal to power all municipal operations using renewable power by 2025. In addition, the City is working toward a goal to power all buildings within the city by renewable, clean power by 2035.
How does the City expect a utility partner to prepare for electrification?
The City expects the next electricity franchisee(s) to maintain a stable, resilient grid and support a just transition to a clean energy economy. It is critical to ensure the grid infrastructure, including power lines, switches, and substations, is adequately and equitably able to support the transition and greater usage of distributed generation such as community solar installations. Another initial step in the energy transition is deeper investment in community-level energy efficiency efforts. By saving energy, businesses and residents save money while reducing stress on the grid as well.
The transportation sector is expected to rapidly electrify with increased access to electric private vehicles, public transportation, electric bikes and scooters. The City considers it extremely important that the future electricity franchisee support the CTA’s clean energy goal of an electric fleet by 2040. The future franchisee will be a critical partner in the successful conversion of bus garages, electrifying buses, and supporting workforce development needs as needed.
How does the City’s new agreement with the utility partner interact with state laws and policies?
While certain energy policy is set through state legislation or state agency decisions, the electricity franchise agreement can serve as an important accountability and regulatory tool between the city and the franchisee. The City anticipates moving to the next stage of its franchising process later in 2021. That stage will include a successful negotiation of the following with the prospective franchisee(s):
A Franchise Agreement that grants an entity the right to provide electricity and use the public way, and an Energy and Equity Agreement that establishes environmental and consumer objectives that an entity and the City will pursue together.
The proposed Energy and Equity Agreement is where the City could elevate local performance goals and values as part of the critical service of delivering electricity. The agreement would contains language about how the business partnership between the municipality and business is structured.
What initiatives or efforts does the City implement to increase solar generation?
The City is dedicated to exploring opportunities to increase solar generation within the city. For example, as part of projects funded through the U.S. Department of Energy, The City is working to increase access to residential solar projects across the diverse building stock across communities. Acknowledging that solar generation is not viable for all building owners, the City will continue exploring strategies that enable access to renewable energy such as community solar.
How can energy saving programs be structured so that renters can participate and benefit from the savings?
Chicago's diverse building stock requires a creative set of energy efficiency solutions. Historic landmark buildings and homes require different implementation strategies than new construction buildings. The City remains committed to developing and advocating for programs that will help residents save money while positively impacting the climate such as, utility energy efficiency programs, enhancing building performance standards and improvements to the City’s energy and building codes.
In May 2021, the City launched the Chicago Building Decarbonization Working Group as a way to explore strategies, policies, and programs to support greater inclusion for businesses and residents in the energy transition. The group anticipates delivering a set of policy recommendations to the Office of the Mayor, Department of Buildings and the Department of Assets, Information, and Services by Winter 2021.
We are also interested in hearing from commenters through the franchise feedback email (and other ways to provide input) as to energy savings strategies for renters that you think the City should pursue.
How is the City prioritizing community engagement and input in the new agreement?
As part of the proposed Equity and Energy agreement, there is an opportunity to craft new engagement strategies to deliver more meaningful programs and support for residents. Below are a few ways to engage with the electricity franchise process:
- Recording of Virtual Electricity Franchise Town Hall on July 19, 2021
- Send your feedback to FranchiseFeedback@cityofchicago.org
- Participate in additional community conversations. To request a presentation to your network or community group, email FranchiseFeedback@cityofchicago.org
- The City will post responses to the Electricity Franchise Delivery Request for Information on Request for Information webpage