Smart Grid

January 16, 2013

In Massachusetts, Customers Co-Design the Grid of the Future

For approximately 15,000 National Grid customers in Worcester, Massachusetts—the second largest city in New England after Boston—the energy system of the future is less than a year away. And they helped design it.

Approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities, the $57 million smart grid pilot project deployed 5,000 meters last fall and will now begin a complete rollout, with a full launch planned for early 2014. Customers are receiving smart meters, programmable thermostats, and e-billing for the utility statements.

Based in Derbyshire, England, National Grid is an international investor-owned electricity and gas company. It serves as the primary electricity distributor for more than three million customers in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.

This marks one of the first times that a major energy program has been co-created with customers, the community and stakeholders from across the city and within the state. All involved worked to develop a program that culminated in September 2011 with the "Green to Growth" Summit, co-hosted by National Grid and the City of Worcester. During the event, more than 300 community members and a cross-section of key groups helped to develop the smart grid proposal.

"We are delighted that the pilot has been approved. We are very grateful to the city, our customers and everyone else who invested their time, energy and creativity to help design this program," said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. "We are excited to embark on the next big step of this journey where we will bring our collective vision to life and deliver its benefits to our customers and the city."

"Worcester is very pleased the MA DPU has approved National Grid's smart grid pilot program," stated City Manager Michael V. O'Brien. "The pilot's goal of helping residents and businesses better understand and control their electricity usage, and providing National Grid additional tools to make the electrical system more reliable are priority concerns for the city as well. National Grid's proactive, inclusive approach to creating and implementing the pilot will likely be a model for others in the state and beyond."

Features of the Initiative

A key feature of the initiative is the installation of the latest technology on the grid to improve reliability and system responsiveness, which includes power outage sensors that enable crews to be dispatched directly to the source of the problem and restore power more quickly; and systems that better identify which customers are affected during storms—thereby improving restoration times.

Advanced metering systems that provide the very latest in technology and security are being deployed. The company also is testing full integration of distributed renewable resources and electric vehicle charging stations; as well as connecting energy storage to existing renewable projects throughout the city.

One of the most important elements of the pilot is customer choice. The company plans to communicate information about specific pilot offerings to customers. In turn, customers will be able choose their level of involvement and, according to what options they select, can receive information about their energy use from various sources—such as online applications, including cell phone and smartphone apps. New dynamic pricing options will be available to help customers save energy and money at different times of day.

A Sustainability Hub that provides an interactive location, where customers can learn more about the pilot, the technology, and energy choice is under development. National Grid is teaming up with local colleges and universities to staff the Sustainability Hub and create cooperative learning opportunities for area customers and students. In addition, National Grid is using social media to provide information and continue the dialogue on the smart grid pilot, as well as energy savings tips, products and special offers via Facebook (News - Alert) and Twitter (@Green2Growth).

“This assembly of organizations is our smart grid ‘dream team’,” said Cheri Warren, vice president, Asset Management for National Grid. “They are the best and brightest in their respective disciplines and share our vision for delivering exceptional benefits for customers. We are excited to have them on board as we make progress toward full deployment of the pilot.”

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Edited by Brooke Neuman