Massachusetts to Require Grid Modernization Plans for Electric Utilities

On December 23, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) issued an order that will result in the modernization of the Commonwealth’s electricity grid. Massachusetts’ electric utilities will be required to develop a Grid Modernization Plan that includes investing in infrastructure for advanced metering functionality.

Advanced metering enables two-way communication between the utility and the customer, helping to achieve cost and energy savings and allow for efficient grid operations. The necessary infrastructure includes smart meters, communications networks and new data management systems to give customers greater choice about their energy use and real-time information to enable the utilities to respond better to storms.

In addition to savings and reliability, grid modernization will allow for easier adoption of clean energy technologies like renewable distributed generation and electricity storage. Advanced metering also enables targeted electricity rates for electric vehicles and electric vehicle charging stations.

The order follows a study into the potential for grid modernization technologies such as advanced meters, cell phone applications and smart appliances. The investigation was launched in 2012 and resulted in a comprehensive report to the DPU from its grid modernization stakeholder group after eight months.

In addition to requiring the plans, the DPU has proposed a targeted cost recovery mechanism that will enable the utility to recover costs for investing in grid modernization technologies more quickly than the typical cost recovery mechanism allows.

“Grid modernization will allow customers to gain more control over their electricity usage and save money on their electricity bills,” said DPU Chair Ann Berwick. “Developing a policy to fully realize the benefits of a modern grid is part of the DPU’s mission to increase the reliability of electric service for residents across the Commonwealth and facilitate the integration of renewable power.”

In a second order issued today, the DPU launched an investigation into initiatives that will encourage the expansion of electric vehicle use in the Commonwealth. The investigation will include the potential for electric vehicle batteries to back up intermittent sources of power, like wind and solar. The effort is consistent with the Commonwealth’s recently announced initiatives to expand alternative vehicle use and install the necessary infrastructure.

“The directives in the Grid Modernization Order will set in motion major advancements that will benefit the Commonwealth’s electric energy customers,” stated DPU Commissioner Jolette Westbrook, “Enhancing benefits to customers is a core motivation in striving to modernize the electric grid.”

“With this Order, we require the electric utilities to adopt a new business model that is more forward thinking,” said DPU Commissioner David Cash, “and it encourages the continued expansion of clean energy technologies like solar, wind, storage and electric vehicles.”

In 2008 and 2012, respectively, Governor Patrick signed into law the Green Communities Act, and An Act Relative to Competitively Priced Electricity in the Commonwealth to significantly enhance the development of energy efficiency, demand response, and distributed generation.  Developing these policies on grid modernization and electric vehicles serves the goals of those laws, and is vital to the Commonwealth’s efforts to promote clean energy resources and a more efficient and reliable electric system.

Source: Massachusetts Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs

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