Potential Impacts of Grid Modernization Advisory Council in Massachusetts Already Taking Shape
Creation of the Council
On August 11, Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker signed comprehensive climate legislation that will help boost offshore wind, adoption of electric vehicles, and building decarbonization. Among the many pieces of this extensive legislation was a requirement to develop of a Grid Modernization Advisory Council (Council). As part of this provision, electric distribution companies would be required to develop grid modernization plans and submit them to the Council. Acadia Center is hopeful that this Council will ensure that utility grid modernization plans are regularly updated, maximize benefits delivered to ratepayers, and provide for greater stakeholder input and public participation. Even before its members have been appointed, we are already seeing the impact of this new entity.
Grid Modernization Dockets, DPU 21-80 through 21-82
On Wednesday, December 2, the Department of Public Utilities (Department) issued a ruling in DPU Dockets 21-80 through 21-82, grid modernization proceedings for Eversource, National Grid, and Unitil. These proceedings required the companies to submit updated grid modernization plans, as well as plans to achieve full-scale deployment of advanced metering infrastructure. The companies submitted separate plans that included a ten-year grid modernization vision, a five-year strategic plan, and a four-year investment plan covering 2022-2025.
Acadia Center generally supported the implementation of these plans, but argued for some changes. We were concerned that 1) the proposed timelines for implementing time-varying rates (TVR) were far too slow; 2) by using an opt-in approach to TVR, the companies’ assumed customer participation rates were significantly lower than would be optimal to deliver the maximum possible benefits to customers; 3) the AMI plans did not propose specific AMI deployment performance metrics; 4) the plans either made passing mention or no mention of equity or environmental justice; and 5) the companies did not prioritize data access for customers and third-party vendors.
Acadia Center had some success in the proceeding, achieving some direct wins, such as the Department asking the companies to include a uniform statewide approach to evaluating equity of preauthorized grid modernization investments. However, a number of requests were left up in the air, thanks to the development of the new Grid Modernization Advisory Council.
The Department evaluated grid modernization performance metrics proposed by the companies and found some of them wanting, specifically the grid-facing and AMI performance metrics. They found that “additional work [was] needed in collaboration with the parties to develop performance metrics that appropriately track the quantitative benefits associated with grid-facing and customer-facing investments, and progress toward grid modernization objectives.” The Department also acknowledged several stakeholders’ arguments about the timeline for TVR and directed the companies to work with stakeholders “to identify AMI meter deployment strategies that may expedite and maximize the availability of TVR products to customers during the AMI deployment period.” The companies must now convene a stakeholder process to settle a number of outstanding issues, including the two above. This stakeholder process will convene at the soon-to-be-created Grid Modernization Advisory Council, where there will now be significantly increased transparency, deliberation, and stakeholder participation and input.
Grid Modernization Advisory Council Impacts in Other Dockets
We have also seen the impact of the coming Grid Modernization Advisory Council in other dockets. DPU 20-75-C was a long-winding docket assessing electric distribution companies’ optimal solutions for long-term planning for the interconnection of distributed generation facilities. Unfortunately, despite significant time and work invested by stakeholders and the Department, the Department opted to close its investigation in light of the creation of the new Council. While Acadia Center is concerned by the seemingly wasted time and effort in that docket, the long and overwrought process highlighted the need for reforms that will hopefully be provided by the Council.
Similarly, in DPU 22-22, an Eversource rate docket, the Department declined to move ahead with several pieces, including an electrification framework and revised peak periods, noting that certain factors would have to be settled at the newly created Council.
Acadia Center is hopeful that this coming Council will result in comprehensive and state-of-the-art grid modernization plans and a transparent and open stakeholder process to address these important issues.
For more information:
Kyle Murray, email@example.com, 617-742-0054 ext. 106