Utilities start massive upgrade of New England grid  

Posted by Big Gav in ,

The Boston Globe has an article on smart grid initiatives in the north east of the US - Utilities start massive upgrade of region’s grid.

Power companies in New England are beginning work on a nearly half-billion-dollar plan to upgrade the region’s electric grid to make way for appliances that can shut down to reduce electric bills, improve energy conservation, and connect to wind and solar energy.

The first step is replacing decades-old meters with so-called smart meters that detail the use of computers, appliances, TVs, lights, and other household equipment.

The new meters — the front line of plans for an advanced electricity grid — communicate with utilities and can respond to constantly changing energy prices. Customers will be able to respond to electricity prices in real time and shut down appliances to save money. Utilities can offer better rates as incentives for using appliances in off-peak hours.

In the future, appliances may even be able to respond to price signals and shut down automatically.

“Smart meters allow us to see what’s going on in the system and allow customers to see what they’re using, when they’re using it and what the cost is,’’ said Robert V. Jolly Jr., general manager of Marblehead Municipal Light Department, a municipally owned power company in Marblehead, Mass. ...

The federal government’s push for an upgraded power grid in the United States will lead to changes comparable to transformations brought about by the personal computer, said Allen Stamp, a Vermont utility official.

Stamp, program manager for smart grid deployment at Vermont Transco, said a modernized power grid is “really about the consumer being empowered to save dollars.

“One person described it as an Internet dot-com mentality coming into use with the electric power system,’’ he said. “It’s a fundamental change.’’

The US Department of Energy has awarded $230 million in federal stimulus funding — matched by the recipients — to New England utilities, municipal power companies, private companies, and a cooperative that are installing new meters. Companies have three years to complete the projects.

About $4 billion is being spent nationally on modernizing electricity grids.

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