The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved a $57 million smart grid pilot program for National Grid’s 15,000 ratepayers in the City of Worcester – or 1.2 percent of National Grid’s electricity customers in the northeastern United States.
Worcester, located about 40 miles east of Boston, has a total population of 181,000 – and 45,000 of its residents will be involved in the pilot project (approximately three per meter).
More than 100 National Grid employees, contractors, vendors will work on the initiative. National Grid is one of the largest investor-owned energy companies in the world – covering parts of Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island in the United States; as well as Britain in its entirety.
The two-year pilot program will test the ability of new technologies to reduce customer outages, save customers money by improving the operational efficiency of the grid, and fully integrate renewable energy and electric vehicles into the grid.
The initiative also will provide customers with access to detailed energy usage information via advanced meters, which customers can access online or with cell phone apps, or through a variety of technologies installed in homes and businesses.
More than 1,000 home display units to be installed in customers’ houses.
National Grid will also test the impact of new pricing structures that reflect the changing costs of electricity, including higher costs at “peak” usage times, such as hot summer days, and lower costs at other times. These pricing structures, coupled with the variety of pilot tools and technologies, will provide cost savings to individual customers and the electric system as a whole.
“This pilot is an important next step in bringing the energy future closer to today,” said Massachusetts Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary, Rick Sullivan. “It is critical the utilities modernize the grid so outages happen less frequently and restoration can happen faster. And the fact that the program could lead to cost-savings for customers makes it a win-win.”
The pilot program is not mandatory; customers in the pilot area can opt out. National Grid’s test also will employ and analyze the extensive use of community-based and traditional channels of outreach and education, which are vital and “cutting-edge” elements of successful smart grid implementation.
Through this smart grid initiative, National Grid aims to meet the goals of the Green Communities Act to reduce peak and total electricity consumption by at least 5 percent.
“National Grid’s smart grid pilot is designed to answer significant questions about how the reliability of the electric grid can be improved in the face of storms and other challenges, and about how customers can control their energy costs,” said DPU Chair Ann Berwick. “We look forward to pilot implementation, and to learning the lessons that will put us on a path to a completely modern electric infrastructure.”
In combination with the aggressive energy efficiency, distributed generation and renewable resource initiatives enacted in the Commonwealth, a successful deployment of smart grid technologies will greatly assist the Commonwealth in meeting its energy goals, and enable the electric distribution companies to improve their distribution networks to meet the evolving needs of customers and increasing requirements to address climate change.
More than 165 miles of electricity distribution lines will be engaged for the pilot, and 66 percent of electricity distribution transformers will be monitored.
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Edited by Braden Becker