Massachusetts utilities unveil smart grid programs


Westborough and Westwood, MA, U.S.A. — (METERING.COM) — April 2, 2009 – Two Massachusetts utilities, National Grid and NSTAR, have unveiled their smart grid pilot programs.

National Grid intends to build and operate a two-year smart grid pilot involving approximately 15,000 customers in Worcester, Mass. A wide variety of customers will be involved, including single, multi-family and small business customers from urban, suburban and rural settings with variable electricity usage. This broad customer base will allow the company to include a sufficient number of electricity distribution substations to test a wide variety of infrastructure configurations with both overhead and underground electrical devices. The pilot also will test the addition of distributed generation and builds in options for adding renewables and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the system.

“We are very excited about the benefits this pilot could deliver to our customers and the environment,” said Marcy Reed, senior vice president of Public Affairs for National Grid in the U.S. “This is the first step in the electricity system equivalent of moving from dial-up to broadband technology.”

Under the pilot, all customers will receive a smart meter, and as an option, customers can have additional equipment installed in their homes that includes special programmable thermostats and other devices that provide data and support energy management.
Participating customers will be asked how they prefer to receive their energy information – via text message, from the Internet, or on a PDA – and arrangements will be made for them to view and monitor energy consumption on a real-time basis, providing information that allows customers to use less energy during peak periods when electricity use is at its highest. Additionally, customers will have the option to receive a new rate plan that allows them to save money during periods when electricity use is at its highest across the region.

Approximately 3,000 customers will be selected for NSTAR’s pilot program, which will be accomplished by utilizing advanced technology to pair its existing automated meter reading equipment with broadband internet service to provide two-way communications directly to a customer’s computer and a home area network (HAN).

Customers participating in the program would be able to access the energy usage information via a HAN and web application provided by NSTAR, allowing energy use decisions to be made in real time. The web application would also include information about electric system conditions and, in instances of high electricity demand, would notify customers of incentives available to those willing to lower their use. Some customers will also be offered new “smart thermostats” that would change the temperature in their homes depending on the company’s electric system conditions.

NSTAR already utilizes a “smart” approach to its distribution system, with thousands of intelligent switches and sensors across the system that reduce the number of power outages and provide real time information on grid performance.

“We’re proud of our established record as having one of the most automated delivery systems in the country,” said Tom May, NSTAR chairman, president and CEO. “Never before has there been a time when customers have been able to take such an active role in limiting carbon output through advanced technology. By offering a smart grid pilot program that uses technology already in place in most homes, we’re uniquely positioned to provide real time usage information while also keeping customer costs down.”

The pilots are being developed in response to the Massachusetts Green Communities Act. If approved by the Department of Public Utilities in 2009, the utilities should begin rolling out their programs in 2010.

National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.3 million customers and gas to 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York and Rhode Island, and manages the electricity network on Long Island under an agreement with the Long Island Power Authority (LIPA).

NSTAR delivers electricity and natural gas to 1.4 million customers in Eastern and Central Massachusetts.