National Grid to move forward with electric distribution upgrades

National Grid USA said on April 6 that it is ready to move forward on its statewide Infrastructure, Safety and Reliability (ISR) Plans for 2016 for natural gas and electric system improvements approved by Rhode Island state regulators.

The plans are submitted annually and outline the company’s proposed upgrades to Rhode Island’s aging electric and gas infrastructure, according to TransmissionHub.

The Fiscal Year 2016 plan calls for an investment of more than $150 million, ranging from electric substation upgrades to natural gas pipeline replacement.

National Grid said its effort to upgrade the state’s electric distribution system, a $73.3 million investment for FY16, includes:

·      South Street substation – Replacing existing equipment to address capacity and asset condition issues to accommodate existing and future electric needs of downtown Providence, with completion in 2019

·      Aquidneck Island – Installing new substation, sub-transmission line and distribution feeders to address normal and contingency electricity load and retire five substations in Newport and Middletown, with completion in 2019

·      Quonset substation and Electric Boat expansion – Expanding the substation and distribution to address asset condition, area capacity and Electric Boat’s proposed expansions, with completed in 2017

·      Ongoing vegetation management – Trimming about 1,250 miles of trees each year, working within a four-year trimming cycle, to mitigate potential outages caused by hazardous trees near power lines

ISR costs are included in the delivery charges side of a customer’s bill, National Grid said, noting that based solely on this year’s ISR Plan approved by the state Public Utilities Commission, a typical residential customer using 500 kWh each month would see an increase of less than 1 percent, or 79 cents each month. However, when combined with other delivery service rate changes that took effect on April 1, the same customer will see a monthly bill decrease of $1.35, the company said, adding that bills will go from $98.81 to $97.46.

In its December 2014 filing submitted to the PUC, the company said that the plan is designed to protect and improve the electric delivery system through repairing failed or damaged equipment, addressing load growth/migration, sustaining system viability through targeted investments that are driven primarily by condition, maintaining levels of inspection and maintenance, and operating a cost-effective vegetation management program.

The company said in its plan that the $73.3 million spending level to maintain the safety and reliability of its electric delivery infrastructure in FY16, covering the period from April 2015 through March 2016, is about 11 percent higher than its budget of $65.9 million for capital improvements on the Rhode Island network during FY15. The increase is primarily driven by the asset condition category, the company added.

The company is proposing to spend $24.1 million in FY16 to replace assets that must be replaced to maintain reliability performance. That level is about 23 percent higher than the FY15 budget of $19.5 million, the company said, adding that the increase is driven primarily by, for instance, the South Street asset replacement project.

The South Street substation is a major 115/11-kV supply substation serving downtown Providence and the surrounding area. The replacement is driven by asset condition concerns, the company added, noting that the building layout is such that it precludes the implementation of modern installation standards in order to replace original equipment. Additionally, spare parts for the protection components are unavailable and will be irreplaceable in the event of a failure. This is another new significant multi-year project, and the company proposes to spend about $4.6 million in FY16.

The company noted that load relief projects for FY16 include the proposed New London Ave substation – formerly the West Warwick substation. That project includes building a new 115/12.47-kV substation in Warwick to provide thermal relief to area distribution feeders, transformers and supply lines, as well as to support projected growth in the area. Land has been acquired to house that substation and engineering will be conducted for the new site. The company added that it proposes to spend $6.8 million on that project in FY16.

In its April 6 statement, National Grid said that its effort to upgrade the state’s natural gas infrastructure, a $76.8 million investment in FY16, includes LNG plant improvements in Exeter and Cumberland.

The PUC order was not available on the commission’s website as of April 17.

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