An Update on Grid Mod in the Granite State

On March 20th, 2017, the NH Grid Modernization Working Group submitted its final report to the Public Utilities Commission. The extensive, 44 page-long document was the culmination of a 12-month long process to develop recommendations for the modernization of the Granite State’s electric grid. Fourteen organizations participated in the full process, including all three regulated distribution utilities in the state, several state agencies, advocacy groups, and a private citizen. NHSEA and our regional partner the Northeast Clean Energy Council (NECEC) were active in the development of the report and coordinated with multiple other groups to ensure the final report provided recommendations to advance NH towards a positive energy future.

The report begins by setting the goals for grid modernization in New Hampshire, including: improving the reliability, resiliency, and operational efficiency of the grid, reducing generation, transmission, and distribution costs, empowering customers to use electricity more efficiently and to lower their electricity bills, and facilitating the integration of distributed energy resources (DERs).

Next, the report provides a detailed matrix of grid modernization outcomes, capabilities, and enablers. This matrix is a helpful, visual layout of the different aspects involved with modernizing our electricity grid and the activities that will allow the state to accomplish its goals.

The next chapter of the report discusses grid modernization planning. The Working Group recommends that “each utility should periodically develop, file, and gain PUC approval of GMPs, with a stakeholder engagement process”. The plans are to include overall goals, guiding principles, a 10-year strategic plan, benefits to customers, benefit-cost analysis of projects, 5 -year investment plan, customer engagement and stakeholder plans, and opportunities for the development of new services with third parties. In the future, grid modernization plans could take the place of the current least-cost integrated resource plans (see page 10 for more details).

The report states that grid modernization investments should be evaluated using a business-case framework, including both quantitative and qualitative evaluations. It is anticipated that the first grid modernization plans will take approximately 9–12 months to prepare, following the review of the report and a directive issued by the Commission.

Much of the final report is dedicated to customer engagement, including rate design, customer and utility data, and customer education. The Working Group recommends the development and use of customer engagement platforms. Eversource has already created such a platform; find out more details here.

Chapter 6 of the report goes into detail on utility cost recovery and incentives framework. Simply stated, the process would include the utilities filing grid modernization plans that describe incremental capital expenditures and operation and maintenance associated with grid modernization investments, along with corresponding testimony for rate changes. The Commission will then review the plans, with opportunity for stakeholder intervention and discovery, and pre-approve the investments. Annual reconciliation with Commission review would follow, and grid modernization plans would be refreshed every three years.

The last chapter of the final report provides recommended next steps for the Commission. These include allowing 30–60 days for public comment, holding at least one technical session on the report following the comment period, and potentially opening a docket with testimony and discovery to resolve any of the non-consensus issues. The report also recommends the Commission release a schedule for the utilities to file their grid mod plans, and to delineate a stakeholder input process.

It is important to remember that the submission of this report is only the first step in New Hampshire’s efforts to modernize its electric grid. However, it does represent the efforts of diverse stakeholders working together to find common ground and plan for a path forward. For more information about the broad topic of grid modernization, check out NHSEA’s “Grid Mod 101” factsheet here.

Read the full NH Grid Modernization Working Group Report here.

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Kate Epsen

Kate is the Executive Director of NHSEA- the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association. Previously, Kate was the New Hampshire State Coordinator for the New England Clean Energy Council.