National Grid has launched the technology phase of its Smart Energy Solutions Program this month and is now making available to nearly 15,000 participating customers in Worcester, Mass., new tools that will help them have better insight into their energy use and costs. The company also has upgraded more than 80 percent of the electric system associated with the Program with new automation and infrastructure-enhancing devices that will improve electric service reliability and power outage response. All grid-facing investments are expected to be completed and in service this summer.
“Working with customers, the city and many others in the community we have reached an important milestone in our program preparing to deliver full benefits to our customers,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid in Massachusetts. “We are excited to have customers connect with us and take control of their energy use as they sign up for and engage with quality tools that will provide unprecedented information and insight into their energy use.”
Innovative Technology Options for Customers
With smart meter installations complete, National Grid’s Smart Energy Solutions Program participants are being invited to enroll in the technology package portion of the program. Offered at no cost to the customer, these new technologies and tools will help customers learn how much energy they are using throughout the day, allowing them better information to make smarter choices about ways in which they can save energy.
Every participating customer will have access to personalized electricity use on-line, including easy-to-read graphs and charts that will show how and when energy is used. Residential customers who meet certain eligibility requirements will be able to choose from various levels of energy management technology options, depending on their preferences, that include:
- Online and mobile energy use applications to monitor and control electric use anytime, anywhere through smartphones, tablets, and computers;
- Digital picture frames with real-time electricity usage information;
- Smart thermostats that can be remotely adjusted;
- Electricity control devices to remotely monitor and control home equipment and appliances.
Commercial customers also will have choices of similar technology options.
In addition to the options offered under the Program, all customers will have opportunities to win prizes for saving energy.
Later this year, as part of the next phase of the Smart Energy Solutions Program, National Grid will offer customers time-based pricing plans to help customers achieve even more energy savings.
“Our customers depend on us to reliably deliver their electricity, so National Grid is leveraging new technologies to build a smarter, more resilient electric network,” said Reed. “By modernizing our system in Worcester, we hope to provide customers with improved response times and a reduction in the number of outages. We also will be better prepared for extreme weather events.”
Electric System Investments Under Way
A key feature for National Grid’s Smart Energy Solutions Program is the installation of the latest grid-side technology to improve reliability and system performance. This type of technology will allow faster outage identification and system reconfiguration that will reduce, and in some cases eliminate, power interruptions. Combining communication technologies with outage indication capabilities will enable crews to be dispatched directly to the source of the problem and restore power quickly. In addition, the new equipment will identify which customers are affected during storms or emergency conditions, thereby improving restoration times.
These investments cover approximately 150 miles of electricity distribution lines in Worcester, and four local substations. The 200 new devices that will be installed on the overhead and underground electric system include the following:
- Regulators that automatically maintain electric voltage;
- Reclosers that detect and reduce outage duration, similar to a circuit breaker;
- Special controls to regulate transformers and other substation electrical equipment;
- Special automation on power lines, transformers, capacitors and other equipment that will speed power restoration;
- Indicators that allow faster identification of the location and cause of power outages;
- A wireless communication network comprised of 14 base stations.
Under the Program, the company also will be testing full integration of renewable resources and electric vehicle charging stations across the city. Several transformer monitors will be installed at solar and wind distributed generation locations within the Program area to help the company study the impact of distributed generation on the electric system.
National Grid’s Smart Energy Solutions Program aims to empower customers to save energy, increase electric service reliability and improve response to power outages. It is the largest, most comprehensive smart grid initiative on the east coast and was developed in partnership with customers, the city of Worcester and other key parties, to provide participating customers with a new level of choice and control over their energy use through advanced technology.
Smart Energy Solutions was approved by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities in August 2012. With full launch underway this year, the two-year pilot will conclude in 2016.