Massachusetts state regulators on Aug. 3 approved National Grid USA’s smart grid pilot program, which includes about 15,000 customers in Worcester, Mass., or 1.2% of the company’s electricity customers.
The two-year pilot, the state Department of Public Utilities (DPU) added, will test the ability of new technologies to reduce customer outages, save customers money by improving the grid’s operational efficiency and fully integrate renewable energy and electric vehicles into the grid.
Additionally, the pilot will provide customers access to energy usage information, enabled by advanced meters, which customers can access online, through cell phones, or through various technologies installed in homes and businesses.
The DPU also said National Grid will 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 enable cost savings for individual customers and the electric system as a whole,” the DPU added.
National Grid filed its proposal with the DPU in December 2011, noting that the pilot has an estimated cost of $44.6m, or $12m less compared to the company’s original pilot, the “2009 pilot.”
National Grid said the proposal maintains the location, size, scope and pricing options of the 2009 pilot, noting that it proposes to implement the 2012 pilot in the northwest part of Worcester, in a 30-square-mile area that includes Webster Square, Tatnuck Square and Airport Hill.
The pilot program is not mandatory and customers in the pilot area can opt out, according to the DPU.
National Grid’s pilot will test the use of community-based and traditional channels of outreach and education, which the DPU said is a vital and “cutting edge” element of successful smart grid implementation.
Through the pilot program, National Grid aims to meet the goals of the Green Communities Act of 2008 to reduce peak and total electricity consumption by at least 5%.
The DPU also said that along with the aggressive energy efficiency, distributed generation and renewable resource initiatives enacted in the state, a successful deployment of smart grid technologies will help Massachusetts meet 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.
“It is critical the utilities modernize the grid so outages happen less frequently and restoration can happen faster,” Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Rick Sullivan said in the statement. “And the fact that the program could lead to cost-savings for customers makes it a win-win.”
DPU Chair Ann Berwick noted in the statement that the pilot is designed to answer significant questions about how the electric grid’s reliability can be improved in the face of storms and other challenges, and about how customers can control their energy costs.
A National Grid spokesperson told TransmissionHub on Aug. 3: “We are hoping to learn a lot through the pilot that can lead to improved performance during storms, enhanced reliability and more ability for customers to manage their energy use. The pilot will help us all develop the grid of the future that meets customer needs today.”
National Grid is a subsidiary of National Grid plc.