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National Grid Rolls Out Plan for Smart Grid Pilot in Massachusetts

smartgrid21National Grid has announced its proposal to build and operate a smart-grid pilot in Worcester, Mass. The pilot, comprised of approximately 15,000 customers, is believed to be the largest in New England. National Grid submitted its proposal to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) on April 1.

The two-year pilot is the first step toward creating a more efficient, higher reliability and environmentally responsible modern grid, said National Grid. Smart grid will provide customers with energy use information, automation, and the ability to control how they use energy.

The pilot will cover more than one percent of National Grid’s Massachusetts customer base and includes single and multi-family and small business customers in urban, suburban and rural settings with variable electricity usage. In addition to testing a variety of infrastructure configurations that include overhead and underground electrical devices, the pilot also will test the addition of distributed generation, and builds in options for adding renewables and plug-in hybrid vehicles to the system.

If approved, the energy company anticipates the first customers will receive new equipment in approximately nine to 12 months after DPU approval. All customers will receive a “smart” meter, as well as other equipment options including special programmable thermostats and other devices that provide data and support energy management.

The smart-grid pilot will cost approximately $57 million, and will be funded through a charge on National Grid’s Massachusetts electric customers’ bills. The cost for customers is estimated at 50 cents per month during the start of the project, with costs declining thereafter.

Other utility companies are already moving ahead with their power grid plans. San Diego Gas & Electric, in partnership with Nissan, is planning to develop an electric vehicle charging network that is touted as a zero-emission mobility model. Advanced Energy, in partnership with Duke Energy and Progress Energy, have begun their smart charging trial of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles.

In addition, Xcel Energy is helping Boulder, Colorado, to become the world’s first smart grid city by the end of 2009, and a number of high-tech companies have signed on to the smart-grid initiative, called the Pecan Street Project, in Austin, Texas.

For utility companies and city managers who want to deploy smart grids, Accenture has launched the Intelligent City Network to coordinate their efforts.

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