The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has issued an Order approving significant investments and upgrades to the state’s electric grid. Specifically, the DPU’s Order authorizes Massachusetts’ utility companies to make $220 million in investments in grid modernization technologies over the next three years to upgrade their distribution systems to improve the efficiency and reliability of the electric grid.
“Today’s Order will both allow better integration of renewable energy and energy storage into the electric grid, and improve the resiliency Massachusetts’ electric grid in the face of a changing climate,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs (EEA) Secretary Matthew Beaton. “Recognizing the role advanced meters play in increasing energy efficiency and reducing costs for ratepayers, the Order positions the Department of Public Utilities to engage with stakeholders to identify targeted advanced metering system investments that will maximize clean energy and ratepayer benefits.”
The grid modernization investments authorized in the Order will automate processes so that mechanical equipment will provide improved visibility, automated command and control, and create a self-healing grid. These improvements will help reduce the effect of power outages and improve storm restoration, as well as improve the electric distribution companies’ ability to integrate distributed energy resources onto the electric grid and to increase the use of renewable energy, electric vehicles, and energy storage.
“The many significant storm-related power outages the Commonwealth experienced this year highlighted the importance of improving our electric grid to increase reliability and shorten power restoration times,” said DPU Chairman Angela M. O’Connor. “By authorizing these innovative grid modernization investments, the DPU is working to ensure that Massachusetts ratepayers are provided with consistently reliable electricity for many years to come.”
The Order will also facilitate stakeholder outreach and an investigation into potential investments in advanced metering infrastructure, or “smart meters.” For the benefits of advanced metering functionality to be realized, the advanced meters must be accompanied by other services and dynamic pricing programs such as time‑varying rates. The DPU’s investigation will both consider how to ensure the widespread adoption of dynamic pricing products for all customers, and whether an immediate targeted deployment of advanced metering functionality to certain customer groups, including net metering and electric vehicle customers, will yield benefits that justify the high costs of implementing advanced metering.