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National Grid plans to file with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) its proposal to build and operate a smart-grid pilot in Worcester, Mass. The pilot is expected to involve approximately 15,000 customers.

The two-year pilot is the first step toward creating a more efficient, environmentally responsible modern grid, according to National Grid. The company hopes to gain valuable information from the pilot that it can use in the future to develop a smart grid on a wider scale.

Under Massachusetts' Green Communities Act, utilities are required to submit proposals and develop smart-grid technologies.

The pilot's broad customer base will allow the company to include a sufficient number of electricity distribution substations to test a wide 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 the pilot is approved, the company will begin to develop the program immediately. It anticipates that the first customers will receive new equipment in approximately nine to 12 months after DPU approval, and once the systems and communications infrastructure is established.

Under the pilot, all customers will receive a smart meter, and as an option, customers can have additional equipment installed in their homes that includes special programmable thermostats and other devices that provide data and support energy management.

If approved, National Grid's smart-grid pilot will cost approximately $57 million and will be funded through a charge on National Grid's Massachusetts's electric customers' bills. The company estimates the charge to be approximately $0.50 per month on a typical residential customer's bill during the start of the project, with costs declining thereafter.

Although this pilot is part of the Green Communities Act, the company plans to apply for federal stimulus funds to deploy other smart-grid pilots.

SOURCE: National Grid




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