Massachusetts authorities push smart grid adoption

Massachusetts has become the latest US state to publish a plan that will require energy providers to begin investing in smart-grid technology.

The state’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has unveiled a so-called ‘Straw Proposal’ requiring utilities to submit ten-year grid modernization plans by mid-2014.

Those investments will need to include provision for advanced metering functionality, according to a statement from the DPU – the aim being to help achieve cost and energy savings through the use of two-way communications between utilities and customer homes.

Authorities say the introduction of the technology will also give customers more choice about energy use and provide utilities with information that means they can better respond to storms.

“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 separate order, the DPU has also launched an investigation into the use of electric vehicles, which, it says, is consistent with its initiatives for expanding alternative vehicle use and installing the necessary infrastructure.

Its proposals on grid modernization follow a study that was launched in 2012 examining the potential for grid modernization technologies, including advanced meters, cell phone applications and smart appliances.

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

According to a report from Climate Progress, investor-owned utilities serve 88% of Massachusetts’ electricity customers, with NSTAR (Boston, MA, USA) and National Grid (Waltham, MA, USA) accounting for about a half of these.

Aiming to promote transparency and fairness towards consumers, the DPU also requires that state officials must first authorize all energy investments relating to the state’s utilities and energy grid, reports Climate Progress.