National Grid Announces Plan for Smart Grid Pilot in Massachusetts

April 9, 2009
National Grid has plans to file with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities its proposal to build and operate a smart grid pilot in Worcester, Massachusetts.

National Grid has plans to file with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities its proposal to build and operate a smart grid pilot in Worcester, Mass. The pilot, which will involve approximately 15,000 customers, is believed to be the largest and most comprehensive in New England. National Grid will submit its proposal to the DPU April 1, 2009.

The two-year pilot is the first step toward creating a more efficient, environmentally responsible modern grid. Smart grid will provide customers improved energy use information, automation, and savings as well as an unprecedented amount of choice and control over how they use energy. Implementing smart grid technology also will enhance the reliability of electric system. National Grid hopes to gain valuable information from the pilot that it can use in the future to develop a smart grid on a wider scale.

A smart grid is a network for electricity transmission and distribution systems that uses two-way, state-of-the-art communications, advanced sensors, and specialized computers to improve the efficiency, reliability and safety of electricity delivery and use. Smart grids also provide environmental benefits by helping to reduce energy use during peak hours and facilitating the connection and addition of distributed generation facilities and renewables to the grid.

National Grid announced its plans for the pilot at a press conference held at Clark University in Worcester. Massachusetts Lieutenant Governor Tim Murray; state Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Ian Bowles; Worcester Mayor Konstantina Lukes, National Grid Senior Vice President of Public Affairs Marcy Reed; and John Bassett, president of Clark University, were on hand to outline National Grid’s proposal and offer support for the initiative. Clark University will be a pilot participant.

“Smart grid is the way of the future, and I’m glad to see National Grid proposing this pilot project for Worcester,” said Lieutenant Governor Timothy Murray. “If the pilot moves forward as planned, consumers will get new ways to manage their energy use and find new ways to save money.”

“This proposal is one of the smart-grid pilot projects required under the Green Communities Act, and I look forward to seeing whether it can deliver the strong benefits we believe are possible,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Ian Bowles. “Today, we can all manage our cell phone plans, but not our electricity use. Smart grid technology is a tool that can help consumers and reduce environmental impacts, and the sooner we learn how to use it, the better.”

Under the Commonwealth’s Green Communities Act, utilities are required to submit proposals and develop smart grid technologies.

National Grid’s pilot will cover more than one percent of its Massachusetts customer base and includes a wide variety of customers – single and multi–family and small business -- from urban, suburban and rural settings with variable electricity usage. The pilot’s broad customer base will allow the company to include a sufficient number of electricity distribution substations to test a wide variety of infrastructure configurations that include overhead and underground electrical devices. The pilot also will test the addition of distributed generation and builds in options for adding renewables and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the system.

“We are very excited about the benefits this pilot could deliver to our customers and the environment. This is the first step in the electricity system equivalent of moving from dial-up to broadband technology, “ said Marcy Reed, senior vice president of Public Affairs for National Grid in the U.S. “We are pleased to again join with the Commonwealth and take tangible action on green initiatives as part of the state’s Green Communities Act. The smart grid program complements our commitment to promoting energy efficiency, renewables, and being an innovative leader in energy management while safeguarding our environment,” Reed said.

If the pilot is approved, the company will begin to develop the program immediately. It anticipates the first customers will receive new equipment in approximately nine to 12 months after DPU approval, and once the systems and communications infrastructure is established.

Under the pilot, all customers will receive a ‘smart’ meter, and as an option, customers can have additional equipment installed in their homes that includes special programmable thermostats and other devices that provide data and support energy management.

Eventually, the company envisions that customers will be able to purchase ‘smart’ appliances that will connect to the smart grid and start or stop when programmed to do so. Participating customers will be asked how they prefer to receive their energy information – via text message, from the Internet, or on a PDA – and arrangements will be made for them to view and monitor energy consumption on a real-time basis, providing information that allows customers to use less energy during peak periods when electricity use is at its highest. Additionally, customers will have the option to receive a new rate plan that allows them to save money during periods when electricity use is at its highest across the region.

National Grid’s smart grid pilot will cost approximately $57 million, if approved, and will be funded through a charge on National Grid’s Massachusetts electric customers’ bills. The company estimates the charge to be approximately 50 cents per month on a typical residential customer’s bill during the start of the project, with costs declining thereafter.

Although this pilot is part of the Green Communities Act, the company plans to apply for federal stimulus funds to deploy other smart grid pilots.

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