New opportunities appear on the horizon in Massachusetts for companies that offer microgrids, smart meters, energy storage, electric vehicles and other efficiency technologies.
The opportunities are arising on three tracks, as the state looks to improve its grid.
First, Governor Deval Patrick has okayed $40 million to make the grid more storm-worthy. The state will distribute the money as grants to cities and towns for hardening energy services at critical sites using clean energy technology. The money will come from the state’s alternative compliance payments fund. That’s where the dollars go that utilities and competitive retail suppliers must pay if they do not secure the amount of combined heat and power or other alternative energy that the state requires in a given year.
Second, Massachusetts is engaged in a ‘grid modernization’ effort that looks at how utilities will invest in smart meters, microgrids, energy storage, and other new technologies. The DPU is still working out the details but a straw proposal is now on the table. It calls for utilities to file grid modernization investment plans, as well as advanced metering plans.
Third, the state is anticipating increased installation of electric vehicle charging stations and trying to determine what role, if any, utilities and state regulators should play.
The state is holding hearings on the grid modernization proposal Feb. 24-28. More details are available at the DPU website, Docket Number 12-76. Separately, the DPU is accepting comments on electric vehicle charging by Feb. 14, Docket Number 13-82.
A point of interest: State regulators are considering letting utilities receive spending authorization for grid modernization in advance, rather than after-the-fact, as is customary. The idea is to reduce risk and encourage utilities to make large investments.
“We are concerned that, under our traditional ratemaking precedent, electric distribution companies may hesitate before making investments beyond what they deem necessary to ensure safe and reliable service. This reluctance may exist, for example, even when the investments are cost-beneficial for a company but involve high capital costs, combined with regulatory lag and the potential for disallowed costs,” the DPU said in a recent order.
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