Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Massachusetts households enter two-year smart meter trial

Steve Rogerson
January 21, 2015

Nearly 15,000 households in Worcester, Massachusetts, will get the chance to try smart meters in a two-year pilot programme by National Grid. During the scheme, they will be able to try new pricing plans designed to help them save on their monthly electric bills and prepare for peak energy events.
National Grid claims the Smart Energy Solutions (SES) programme is the most comprehensive smart grid pilot in the north-east of the USA.
“The SES programme provides participating customers with real opportunities to manage their energy usage and reduce their monthly bill,” said Marcy Reed, president of National Grid MA. “At the heart of the programme is our desire to help put our customers in control of their energy and do so in ways that are easy and convenient for them.”
A feature of the programme is National Grid’s investment in infrastructure and technologies in Worcester. These communications and automation enhancements will enable faster outage identification – including which customers have lost power during storms or emergency conditions – and faster system restoration.
Under the Smart Rewards pricing plan, participating customers will have daytime rates that are lower than their current basic service rate (or electricity supply rate) for 335 days per year. This plan provides for even lower rates on nights, weekends and holidays. It offers savings for shifting energy-intensive activities to any time before 8am or after 8pm, which is when electricity prices are the lowest. Typical residential customers can expect to see average savings of approximately $16 per month on this plan.
On the remaining 30 days each year, called Conservation Days, rates will increase significantly during specifically designated hours. known as peak events. These peak events will typically be during summer months, when electricity is in high demand and the supply is constrained. During Conservation Days, customers will be prompted to take action to conserve energy and reduce their electricity costs during designated hours. National Grid will notify customers the day before a peak event so they can plan accordingly.
The plan also provides bill protection. If customers stay with this pricing plan for 12 consecutive months, their annual billing will not exceed the amount it would have been under their previous rate. SES customers are enrolled in the Smart Rewards plan but can opt into the Conservation Day rebate plan if they prefer. This plan offers customers the opportunity to stay at their current Basic Service rate and earn a rebate when they reduce their energy usage below what they normally use during peak events.
Customers will receive a credit the following month for any energy they saved during the previous month’s peak events on the Conservation Days. This plan does not include the lower rates for the 335 days of the year the Smart Rewards plan offers.
National Grid recently installed advanced technology on its electricity distribution system that includes a private, secure, high-speed communications network connecting the company, customers and the local power system. Previously, it relied on customers to call in service interruption information but now, with this enhancement, it will be able to identify more quickly where outages are occurring within the SES programme footprint.
“Much of our current electricity system dates back to the time of Thomas Edison, yet we all want cleaner and smarter energy,” said Reed. “What we are doing in Worcester is bringing innovation and new technology to our customers supported by an advanced infrastructure that is more resilient, efficient and productive.”
Additional electricity system benefits include: faster outage identification and system restoration that reduces and in some cases eliminates power interruptions; and improved reliability, system performance and operational efficiency, reducing costs for grid operation and maintenance.
These investments cover about 240km of electricity distribution lines in Worcester and a wireless communications network comprised of 14 base stations. Approximately 180 devices have been installed on the overhead and underground electric system enabling many of these enhancements.
Under the SES programme, the company is testing full integration of renewable resources and electric vehicle charging stations in the city. Several transformer monitors are installed at solar and wind distributed generation locations within the programme area to help the company study the impact of distributed generation on the electric system.