Major Utility Says Smart Meters Are Not Necessary

“Within the industry, many different definitions and interpretations of grid modernization have emerged that are at best inconsistent, and at worse contradictory,” said Unitil .

The utility filed the comments in response to a grid modernization docket before the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission (Docket No. IR 15-296).

The commission is considering following Massachusetts , New York and other states undertaking grid modernization, but decided first to explore the topic with stakeholders.

Unitil , which also operates in Massachusetts , said it defines grid modernization using a smart grid framework offered by the Department of Energy . The framework lists six values for a smart grid; it must be more reliable, secure, economic, efficient, environmentally friendly and safer.

Disagreement also exists over the role of a utility in a modernized grid. Regulators will need to decide which services are best provided by the utility, and which could be provided by newly emergent competitive markets, Unitil said.

Unitil sees the modernized grid providing “a robust network” that integrates customers, competitive markets and technology. This would change the utility role into that of an “enabling platform” that supports activity by third parties and electricity customers.

In fact, it may turn out that the regulated utility will not develop or implement the technologies but will bequeath that role to competitive players.

“From the company’s perspective, it does not make sense to devote utility capital to the development of technological innovations that competitive markets may be better able, suited and willing to provide,” Unitil said.

Unitil sees the modernized grid providing “a robust network” that integrates customers, competitive markets and technology. This would change the utility role into that of an “enabling platform” that supports activity by third parties and electricity customers.

In fact, it may turn out that the regulated utility will not develop or implement the technologies but will bequeath that role to competitive players.

“From the company’s perspective, it does not make sense to devote utility capital to the development of technological innovations that competitive markets may be better able, suited and willing to provide,” Unitil said.

The Unitil approach echoes the New York ‘Reforming the Energy Vision,’ a new policy framework that revises the utility role, making it more of an exchange on which a competitive distributed market operates.

Eversource (previously Northeast Utilities and NStar), which operates in New Hampshire , Massachusetts and Connecticut , did not describe itself as a market platform. Instead, the utility focused more on grid modernization as an investment in utility infrastructure.

Read full story here…

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