BOSTON (State House News Service) — The Department of Public Utilities last week approved utility company investments totaling more than $470 million to modernize the electric distribution system in an attempt to improve reliability and accommodate what is expected to be a growing reliance on clean energy, the Baker administration announced Tuesday.
DPU's order related to the utilities' 2022-2025 Grid Modernization Plans granted final approval for Eversource, National Grid and Unitil to collectively invest up to $472.47 million in grid modernization technologies over the four-year term. DPU said the order will lead the utilities to "expand the deployment of grid monitoring technologies, advanced communication technologies, and automation technologies that will modernize the state's electric power system." The approvals build on the first grid modernization plans, approved in May 2018.
"The Baker-Polito Administration supports the DPU's Order, which furthers efforts to utilize innovative technologies that will achieve measurable results, such as improved storm restoration, while continuing ongoing efforts to improve efficiency and address our climate challenges," Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Beth Card said.
Modernizing the grid to make it easier to integrate distributed energy resources like solar and energy storage is a priority for state energy officials, who are trying to ensure the state is on a path to satisfy the decarbonization commitments policymakers have made. The clean energy and climate bill that Gov. Charlie Baker signed in August created a Grid Modernization Advisory Council and requires utilities to proactively upgrade the grid.
"We need to modernize electric distribution. And as you probably just saw that there is an announcement for Department of Public Utilities for one of the first major investments in our distribution system, electric distribution system, to facilitate the electrification and other decarbonization strategies, including deploying advanced meter infrastructure," Undersecretary of Energy and Climate Solutions Judy Chang said Tuesday during a hearing on the Baker administration's clean energy and climate plan. "We will continue to do this work with the recommendation from the Grid Modernization Advisory Council that will be standing up as soon as we can."
National Grid's plan includes the largest dollar total of investment -- DPU approved a budget cap of $300.8 million. Eversource follows at $162.6 million and Unitil can invest up to $9.07 million. The order also details how the nearly half-billion dollar investments will impact residential electric bills, which are already stressing households as winter approaches: National Grid estimated a hit of between 0.8 percent and 2 percent over the four years, Eversource estimated that average bills would rise 54 cents per month and Unitil said it expects its average monthly bill to climb 67 cents.
Written by Colin A. Young, SHNS