Massachusetts smart grid pilot gets DPU go-ahead

America’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved a pilot project by National Grid to install smart meters at the premises of 15,000 customers in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The customer sample represents about 1.2% of National Grid’s electricity customers and will allow the utility to see how a smart grid could help to reduce outages and improve operational efficiency over a two-year period.

America’s Department of Public Utilities (DPU) has approved a pilot project by National Grid to install smart meters at the premises of 15,000 customers in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The customer sample represents about 1.2% of National Grid’s electricity customers and will allow the utility to see how a smart grid could help to reduce outages and improve operational efficiency over a two-year period.

National Grid will also look at integrating renewable energy and electric vehicles into the grid, as well as provide pilot customers with detailed energy-usage information that can be accessed online or with mobile-phone apps.

It also plans to test the impact of new pricing schemes that reflect the changing costs of electricity, including higher costs at “peak” usage times, like hot summer days.

It claims that new tariffs, coupled with the variety of pilot tools and technologies, will lead to cost savings for customers and the electrical system as a whole.

“This pilot is an important step in bringing the energy future closer to today,” said energy and environmental affairs secretary Rick Sullivan in a statement. “It is critical the utilities modernize the grid so outages happen less frequently and restoration can happen faster. And the fact that the program could lead to cost savings for customers makes it a win-win.”

“National Grid’s smart grid pilot is designed to answer significant questions about how the reliability of the electric grid can be improved in the face of storms and other challenges, and about how customers can control their energy costs,” added DPU chair Ann Berwick. “We look forward to pilot implementation, and to learning the lessons that will put us on a path to a completely modern electric infrastructure.”

National Grid believes the pilot will help it to meet the goals of the Green Communities Act to reduce peak and total electricity consumption by at least 5%.

Participation in the pilot is not mandatory, however. Customers in the target area can “opt out”, although National Grid is perhaps hoping to minimize exclusions through the use of “community-based and traditional channels of outreach and education, which is a vital … element of successful smart grid implementation.”