Illinois is using its upcoming smart meter rollout to promote itself as “a hub for the R&D, manufacturing, development and financing of smart grid and energy projects,” said Dr. Mohammad Shahidehpour, Director of the Robert W. Galvin Center for Electricity Innovation at the Illinois Institute of Technology.

“Illinois will now have the most comprehensive smart grid deployment in the U.S., and we can use our existing intellectual and human capital to ensure we serve as a model for the rest of the world.”

The recently enacted Illinois Energy Infrastructure Modernization Act authorizes the state’s two major utilities, ComEd and Ameren, to spend $3.2 billion over 10 years to update the state’s electricity infrastructure, more than half of which will be smart grid related.

Illinois first produced a market study to identify every Illinois company that could potentially benefit from the deployments (nearly 200, it turns out). It then took steps to support those companies and to attract new ones. For instance, the new law creates a $22.5 million investment fund to support startups and existing firms. It also requires ComEd and Ameren to establish physical testbeds where entrepreneurs can get access to the grid. The press release brags that “Illinois will be the first state to be home to the compelling combination of a smart grid specific investment fund and a utility-connected test bed.”