Cape Organizations Look at SmartGrid Opportunities and Challenges

For Immediate Release: Wednesday, June 29, 2016; 10:00 a.m.

 

CAPE ORGANIZATIONS LOOK AT SMARTGRID OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES

Dennis, MA—The Cape Cod Technology Council and Cape Light Compact co-hosted a breakfast meeting today at the Cape Cod Community Media Center to kick off a public education campaign on the “SmartGrid” coming to Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. The featured speaker, Karl R. Rábago, a former U.S. Department of Energy official and nationally-known utility analyst, talked about the current transformation of electric utilities and benefits and challenges that consumers face.  “This is the biggest change for electric utilities in the last century,” Rábago noted.  “We are shifting from a mechanical utility structure in which power flows from the generating plant to the consumer, to one that has digital intelligence and power can flow in both directions.  It opens up a lot of possibilities for power generation, storage, stability and local energy generation.”

The discussion is being driven by the fact that Eversource, the regional electric utility, has filed a $496 million “Grid Modernization Plan” with the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities that includes “SmartGrid” features. Eversource states that “consumers are at the center of the plan,” but even knowledgeable consumers know little about what is possible, or what is being proposed.

Bert Jackson, president of the Technology Council said, “The fact is that we have a world with new technologies coming at us, and there are important choices to be made for our future. It’s vital that our community learns about this to help shape what it will mean for our homes, businesses and our regional economy.”

Cape Light Compact has had a team working on this issue for more than two years. Austin Brandt, power supply planner for the Compact, said there are several key questions for consumers:

Among the issues that Brandt singled out:

* Should the region advocate for “smart meters” being installed on an opt-out basis for all customers and funded by all ratepayers, so that everyone has an equal opportunity for certain types of savings, or should this be an opt-in process in which individual customers choose to have a smart meter installed, and bear extra associated costs?

*  Balanced allocation of benefits and costs – how do we ensure that Cape and Vineyard consumers are not being charged for “Grid Modernization” improvements in Boston or elsewhere in the Eversource territory?

*  What level of electric reliability and resiliency do consumers expect, and how much are they willing to pay for that reliability? Are all of the proposed resiliency-related costs appropriate for inclusion in this plan?

“Massachusetts is facing a choice regarding whether to have a consumer friendly smart grid or a utility centric smart grid,” Downey said, “We have a lot of experience in other states we can draw from.” Jackson said the two groups plan to hold regional public meetings in the fall. “Summer is a busy time for everyone, and there is a lot we can begin to do to make people aware of this in the meantime.”   According to the current schedule at the Department of Public Utilities, Downey noted there will be an opportunity for the Compact to help educate consumers during the summer and convey their opinions to state utility commissioners in the fall.

 

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Cape Light Compact is an award-winning energy services organization operated by the 21 towns and two counties on Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard. The Compact’s mission is to serve its 200,000 customers through the delivery of proven energy efficiency programs, effective consumer advocacy, competitive electricity supply and green power options. For more information, visit www.capelightcompact.org.

The Cape Cod Technology Council is an organization of Leaders, Experts & Advisors driving Technology, Education, Innovation & Policy on Cape Cod. The Council’s mission is to communicate, promote, educate, and mentor the advancement of technologies within all sectors on Cape Cod and adjacent areas in southeastern Massachusetts to aid and abet their advancement and economic viability as well as that of the geographical region in which they reside.

 

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