Money, Microgrids and More Green Tech Plans in Massachusetts

Jan. 20, 2014
A lot is going in Massachusetts when it comes to microgrids, energy storage, electric vehicles and smart meters. Here is a look at three ways that the state’s government is looking to make the electric grid more modern and storm-ready. It’s already placed $40 million on the table.

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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About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded RealEnergyWriters.com, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

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