Under an order issued by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) just before Christmas, the state’s electric utilities are required to develop a 10-year grid modernization plan that includes investing in infrastructure for advanced metering functionality.

Further, 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.”

The order details four grid modernization objectives:

  1. Reduce the effects of outages
  2. Optimize demand, which includes reducing system and customer costs
  3. Integrate distributed resources, and
  4. Improve workforce and asset management.

The plans are required to be developed and submitted to the DPU within six months of the final order. Thereafter the electric companies must achieve advanced metering functionality no later than three years from the DPU’s approval of its plan (assuming that the benefits of so doing justify the costs).

In a second order, the DPU has launched an investigation into initiatives that will encourage the expansion of electric vehicle use in the state. The investigation will include the potential for electric vehicle batteries to back up intermittent sources of power like wind and solar, electric vehicle charging and its effect on the grid, and rate structures for electric vehicles.

According to FERC’s latest advanced metering survey, in 2012 Massachusetts had an estimated advanced meter penetration of 2.1%.