Customer Service, DER-Grid Edge, Executive Insight, Smart Grid

Transforming Utility Customer Service: Innovative Solutions for Customers and the Grid

There is a lot of discussion on how utilities can cost-effectively optimize the grid to address important priorities on climate change, global warming and clean energy solutions. Part of that expansion is to leverage grid-scale storage and customer-owned behind-the-meter demand assets to address environmental priorities and grid constraints during peak demand periods.

This series of articles will explore both grid-scale and behind-the-meter solutions and the implications for our customers. This first article sets the stage by providing the regulatory framework, as well as outlining the delivery framework, being implemented to enable both 150 MW of grid-scale and behind-the-meter demand assets over the next three years in Eversource’s Massachusetts service territory.

Regulatory Framework

Massachusetts is on the leading edge of this discussion.  Lawmakers have put into place a strong regulatory and policy framework that creates a win-win-win scenario for business, the environment and consumers. The state has established a clean energy cluster that continues to bring innovative solutions to the market. Over the past 15 years, Massachusetts has been at the forefront of establishing policy frameworks that enable clean energy growth. In 2008, Massachusetts passed The Green Communities act “designed to overcome barriers to the adoption of energy efficiency and renewable energy resources.” The Global Warming Solutions Act, also passed in 2008, set a goal for greenhouse gas reduction of 80 percent by 2050 from 1990 levels. This plan has spurred the development of large-scale renewable generation, expansion of solar and establishment of a mandate for 1,000 MW of storage. This year, Massachusetts established the clean peak standard that will require an increasing percentage of peak load to be served from clean peak resources.

With the storage and clean peaks mandates in place, Eversource proposed and gained approval for both grid-scale storage and behind-the-meter demand assets totaling 150 MW. Eversource was the first utility in Massachusetts to secure approval for 50 MW of grid-scale storage as part of its grid modernization proposal. With this proposal, Eversource will deploy one of the largest grid-scale battery solutions in the country. Similarly, Eversource is on the forefront in delivering 100 MW of load reduction from behind-the-meter assets. These assets are customer owned.

From a utility perspective, Massachusetts has been thoughtful in providing a regulatory framework that makes sense to invest in these solutions. The framework includes revenue decoupling, performance incentives for delivering energy efficiency solutions and performance-based ratemaking that supports grid modernization.

Delivery Framework

Eversource is now moving forward to install two grid-scale battery storage solutions in Massachusetts. The Martha’s Vineyard Community Battery project is designed to reduce demand on diesel fired generators that are today needed on the island to support summer peak demand.  Additionally, the battery storage will support the grid’s ability to add more distributed energy resources. This project is using a 5MW lithium ion battery. The second project is a 25 MW lithium ion battery located in outer Cape Cod. This project is targeted at reducing outages and outage duration while avoiding construction of a costly additional distribution circuit through the Cape Cod National Seashore. Both projects are expected to be operational in 2020.

To deliver the 100 MW of behind-the-meter demand assets, Eversource will be partnering with customers. These assets will include solutions targeted to larger commercial and industrial (C&I) customers such as lithium ion batteries and thermal storage. Eversource estimates that approximately 20 percent of the 100 MW will be provided by these larger storage installations.

The balance of the 100 MW will be enabled through the aggregation of smaller demand assets leveraged through a more traditional demand response type of approach. These assets will include such things as wi-fi enabled thermostats, residential batteries, load shedding at C&I customer facilities, and evaluation of electric vehicle management.  

An energy management platform will be implemented to enable these demand assets to provide support for the electric grid. This is a software solution that will allow Eversource to monitor, control and dispatch behind-the-meter assets in an aggregated and coordinated fashion.

This series of articles will further explore the technologies, delivery approaches, customer, and learnings from these grid-scale and behind-the-meter demand asset projects. Talk is turning to action in Massachusetts, and the benefits will be shared by all.

About the author: Penni McLean-Conner is chief customer officer at Eversource Energy, the largest energy delivery company in New England. She serves on several boards, including the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy.