National Grid- Smart Grid Programs in Worcester and Beyond

Feb 7, 2017 9:05 AM ET

The following article is taken from the “Customer Empowerment” chapter of Dean Seavers’ Democratization of Energy eBook

Let’s be honest. Most of our customers believe energy prices are too volatile and too expensive. Reliability might have been a differentiator for high-performing utilities in years past, but today, keeping the lights on is table stakes.

Advancing technologies, the need to stay constantly connected, and personal choice in all areas of their lives are driving our customers to want more control over how and when they use energy.

And I couldn’t be more proud of the communities we serve for embracing this trend. Why? Because in the end, it will drive a more sustainable longterm model. 

In Massachusetts, we rolled out Smart Energy Solutions, a program designed to provide customers the information they need through an integrated package of smart electric meters, inhome technology and new variable delivery rates.

As we begin our third year, we’re exploring opportunities to apply our learnings and develop this “Smart Grid” concept further with additional customer programs and services. 

Leveraging the power of advanced smart meters, nearly 15,000 customers in the city of Worcester, Mass., were given detailed access to their own personal usage information through in-home technologies that communicate directly with the meters on their houses. 

In real-time, customers can now closely examine how much energy they use and the financial impact of that usage at different times of day.

Smart Energy Solutions also enables us to communicate directly with customers during critical periods when the demand on the electric grid is high, called “peak events.” 

On the day prior to these events, customers receive automatic alerts (via email, text, or phone) and can preset smart thermostats to save both energy and money. They can also access “load control” devices that can be scheduled to prevent electric water heaters and pool pumps from operating during the expensive peak events.

Customers also have the opportunity to get a more comprehensive look at an entire day’s usage, including during peak events, by visiting our “Worcester Smart” web portal. 

The opportunity to see in detail how their usage changes throughout the day, especially during these peak events, helps to empower customers to use energy more strategically or lower their usage overall, saving on their bills in the process.

The summer of 2015 saw our first peak events in Worcester. What did we learn? Customers are taking action and feel that the technology is helpful for both understanding and controlling their usage.

Using Worcester as the blueprint, we’re now looking at new opportunities to enhance the customer experience by taking the pieces that worked (smart meters, in-home technology, and new rates) and eliminating issues that our customers identified as participation hurdles. 

Future programs and services may help tackle other customer issues such as weather-related bill fluctuations or high upfront costs for investments such as solar panels.

With New York’s regulatory leadership through REV, the Empire State will be our next stop for a smart grid pilot. The communities that we’re exploring provide us with the opportunity to test new smart grid features such as combined electricity and gas “simple bills,” that stay at one flat rate for the entire year. 

REV allows us to consider an enhanced portfolio of customer-owned generation opportunities, such as new solar and wind, and new strategic partnerships with technology and appliance partners. 

Enhanced street lighting that reduces energy consumption and provides better lighting quality, as well as Volt/VAR Optimization, which you can read more about in our chapter titled “An Efficiency Game Changer,” are also being considered for new pilots.

As we continue to evolve the range of choices we’re offering customers using Worcester’s Smart Energy Solutions as a model, future programs will increase the adoption of smart home technologies through education, ease the impact on upfront investments, and improve customers’ understanding of how energy markets work, especially during the periods of highest demand. All of these solutions optimize the customer experience, increase savings for the community, and protect the environment. Equally important, they enable the demand for energy to keep pace with local economic growth.


About the Author

Dean Seavers joined National Grid in December 2014 as President of National Grid in the U.S.

Dean’s long career has included leadership roles at GE, United Technologies, and Tyco. He led GE Security, a $2 billion product and technology group, and he also led a $4 billion global services portfolio for United Technologies.

At Red Hawk Fire & Security, Dean’s most recent venture, he was a founder and served as President and CEO. Red Hawk quickly became the second largest independent fire and security platform in the U.S., providing integrated security solutions to large and mid-sized commercial customers.

Dean has a strong background in financial strategy, performance improvement, and operational leadership. At National Grid, his focus is on continuing the performance progress that underpins the company’s U.S. business while driving its Connect21 agenda of building the advanced natural gas and electricity networks that are the foundation of our 21st century digital economy.

A native of Sandusky, Ohio, Dean graduated summa cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in business from Kent State University and earned an MBA from Stanford University’s Graduate School of Business.

Dean and his family have a home in Boston.

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