New England’s largest utility last week petitioned regulators to pre-approve $100 million for energy storage in Massachusetts and $45 million for electric vehicle infrastructure.
Eversource sought the approvals as part of a $400 million grid modernization plan, included within a rate hike petition that the utility filed with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (D.P.U. 17-05).
The grid modernization plan is an early step to enable more distributed energy, reduce greenhouse gases, improve resiliency and cybersecurity, and add energy storage in Massachusetts, according to the filing.
Eversource said it sees the plan as a way forward in a difficult business climate for utilities, with electric consumption declining and a prosumer model taking hold.
The transformation requires that the utility provide safe and reliable service “in a model where power is both generated and consumed by customers and new resource types provide alternatives to traditional distribution investments,” the utility said in written testimony.
The report does not mention microgrids; however, the kind of upgrades that Eversource proposes could pave the way for more of what some industry insiders call unintentional microgrids. These are places on the grid that readily lend themselves to microgridding because key elements of a microgrid – such as automation and energy storage — are already in place.
Separately, the city of Boston already has identified several neighborhood locations within Eversource’s service territory that might benefit from microgrids.
Massachusetts has seen a proliferation of distributed energy, especially solar, since passing a pro-green energy policy, the Green Communities Act, eight years ago. Eversource said its grid modernization plan will allow for more effective management of the distributed energy.
“Our customers are expressing increasing interest in playing a more active role in their energy management with solar panels and other technologies,” said Craig Hallstrom, president of Massachusetts electric operations at Eversource. “Our plan includes the tools to help make the integration of solar safer and more streamlined.”
The grid modernization plan bolsters state policy in other ways as well, according to the utility. In particular, grid improvements will help the state toward its goal to reduce greenhouse gases 25 percent by 2020 and 80 percent by 2050.
The plan also comes as the state Division of Energy Resources works to set goals for energy storage in Massachusetts.
The defining microgrid conference of the year, Microgrid 2017, will be held in Massachusetts, Nov. 6-8.
Eversource identified four places it wants to begin investing in energy storage in Massachusetts. the island of Martha’s Vineyard, Wellfleet (on Cape Cod), New Bedford, and Pittsfield.
The projects would use storage in various ways, including as non-wires alternatives, for reliability, and to address intermittency and voltage fluctuation. Eversource plans to make the investments over five years.
State aims for 300,000 EVs
The electric vehicle component of the plan is designed to help the state reach its goal of 300,000 zero-emission electric vehicles registered in Massachusetts by 2025. Only 8,450 EVs were registered in the state as of September 3, of which 3,750 are Eversource vehicles, according to the utility.
Massachusetts has been slow to adopt EVs because private sector investment in charging stations has failed to materialize, according to Eversource.
The utility does not want to install or own EV chargers, but seeks regulatory approval to educate customers about the technology and provide “make-ready” infrastructure that allows the customer to install the charger, according to the filing.
The grid modernization plan also calls for $195 million in distribution automation improvements, $44 million to support a distribution system network operator, and $15 million for billing and customer tools for DER integration.
Eversource, which serves 1.4 million Massachusetts customers, seeks regulatory approval of a performance-based rate plan to pay for the grid modernization plan. The utility hopes to begin making the improvements Jan. 1, 2018.
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