On Tuesday, after months of waiting, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) took action on the Grid Modernization Plans filed last summer by the three Massachusetts Electric Distribution Companies (EDCs), Eversource Energy, National Grid, and Unitil, calling for all interested parties to intervene in the proceedings by March 30, 2016.
The EDCs’ Grid Modernization Plans propose concrete steps to modernize the electric grid, including plans to improve the integration of distributed resources into the grid and invest in technologies to optimize demand and improve the grid’s resiliency and responsiveness. As part of those plans, each EDC evaluated the possibility of rolling out advanced meters to all customers. Although there is a great deal of variation among the three plans, each of the EDCs proposed significant investment in systems to collect and process information and increase the atomization of grid functions, investment in energy storage projects, and investment in research and development efforts.
The EDC’s plans are a starting point–they will be reviewed by the DPU and by parties that successfully intervene in the DPU’s proceedings, and it is very likely that they will be changed before they are finalized and approved. As a result, these proceedings represent an unusual opportunity to shape the future of the electric grid in Massachusetts. What comes out of these proceedings will set the playing field for many growing and emerging energy, conservation, and information technologies. The extent to which the EDCs will be required to take steps to enable distributed resources, customer empowerment, and emerging technologies such as energy storage, electric vehicles, and demand management, could have a profound effect on the manner and timing in which such technologies are adopted in Massachusetts.