The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has approved National Grid’s proposal for a smart grid pilot program in Worcester. This new approach marked one of the first times a major energy program was co-created with customers, the community and stakeholders from across the city and within the state. All involved worked to develop a program that culminated in September 2011 with the “Green to Growth” Summit that was co-hosted by National Grid and the city of Worcester. During the event, more than 300 members of the community and a cross-section of key groups and individuals helped to develop the smart grid program, leading to an official proposal.

The pilot will offer participating customers greater choice in how they use energy as well as new technologies that will increase electric system reliability so that problems on the system, such as power outages during storm events, can be identified and fixed more quickly. While preliminary preparations are underway, and much work remains to be done, full pilot launch is expected within the next year.

A key feature for the pilot is the installation of the latest technology on the grid to improve reliability and system responsiveness, which includes testing remote power outage sensors that enable crews to be dispatched directly to the source of the problem and restore power more quickly; systems that better identify which customers are affected during storms, thereby improving restoration times.

The pilot calls for installation of advanced metering systems that provide the latest in technology and security. Early installation of approximately 5,000 advanced meters is nearly complete, helping to obtain baseline energy data, test communications systems and adjust the equipment before full deployment.

Under the pilot, the company also will be testing full integration of renewable resources, electric vehicle charging stations and connecting energy storage to existing renewable projects across the city.

One of the most important elements of the pilot is customer choice. The company plans to communicate information about specific pilot offerings to customers. In turn, customers will be able choose their level of involvement and, according to what options they select, can receive information about their energy use from various sources such as on-line applications, including cell phone and smart phone apps. New dynamic pricing options will be available to help customers save energy and money at different times of day.

Since the Green to Growth Summit, National Grid has and will continue to focus on proactive customer and community engagement that allows for customer interaction and education - a key difference that sets this pilot apart from other smart grid programs across the country.

A Sustainability Hub that provides an interactive location where customers can learn more about the pilot, the technology and energy choice is in development. National Grid is teaming up with local colleges and universities to staff the Sustainability Hub and create cooperative learning opportunities for area customers and students.

National Grid is also using social media to provide information and continue the dialogue on the smart grid pilot, as well as energy savings tips, products and special offers via Facebook and Twitter @Green2Growth.

The pilot is projected to cost approximately $44 million. While the pilot officially began with the DPU approval, final technology and vendor selection is currently under way. Design and communication materials will be developed in the coming months.