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Mass. regulators launch smart meter discussion, OK $220M to upgrade grid

Massachusetts regulators authorized the state's utilities to spend $220 million over three years to improve the efficiency of their distribution systems and boost grid reliability. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities also launched an investigation into the use of smart meters.

The new investments are aimed at reducing the impact of power outages and creating a "self-healing" grid by providing increased visibility to mechanical equipment and automating certain command and control processes. In addition, the investments will be used to help integrate distributed energy resources onto the grid and boost the use of renewable energy, electric vehicles and energy storage.

Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities Chairman Angela O'Connor said the many storm-related power outages that Massachusetts experienced in the last year highlighted the need to boost grid reliability and shorten restoration times.

The DPU smart meter investigation will seek stakeholder input on a variety of issues. For instance, the DPU said to realize the full benefits of smart meters, they must be accompanied by other services and dynamic pricing programs such as time-varying rates.

The DPU, therefore, wants to look at the best way to ensure the widespread adoption of dynamic pricing products for all customers. It also wants to consider whether an immediate and targeted deployment of smart meters to certain customer groups, including net metering and electric vehicle customers, will yield benefits that justify the high costs of implementing advanced metering.

Matthew Beaton, state secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, said the goal of the DPU investigation is to identify smart meter investments that will maximize cleaner energy and ratepayer benefits, including cost reduction.