National Grid Zeros in on Aggressive Energy Efficiency Targets

The kilowatt you never use: How National Grid plans to save customers $3.6B through efficiency

Utility Dive, August 31, 2016

According to ACEEE, Massachusetts’ approach to efficiency “has resulted in one of the most ambitious fully-funded state savings targets, incremental electric savings targets ramping up from 2.5% to 2.6% from 2013-2015.” And the state gives utilities shareholder incentives of up to 5% of program costs for meeting certain goals.

So there are certainly incentives for National Grid, the state’s largest utility, to successfully execute its energy efficiency plan. And it is aggressive: The utility expects to save customers $3.6 billion. Its plan, approved in January of this year, covers 2016 to 2018, during which National Grid plans to invest nearly $850 million in electric energy efficiency and more than $382 million in natural gas efficiency.

In part to help meet efficiency goals—as well as improving its distribution network and service to the customer—National Grid has recently created a group called the NES Customer Solutions Group.

“The team was created with the sole purpose of being focused on innovation and technologies that we wanted to drive cleaner energy and improved efficiency, affordability and choice for the customer,” said James Bell, an associate engineer in the group. NES reflects National Grid’s larger Connect21 goals, which focus on the utility’s strategy for transforming its infrastructure and develop new energy solutions that align with state initiatives and customer benefits.

Part of the benefit to having the NES group is its focus on implementing new technologies and programs rather than managing what is already on the ground, Bell said. “We think it’s easier for us to do our jobs than if we’re getting caught up in the day-to-day operations,” he said. “We have to validate if the technology works, and if it can demonstrate savings. Then we roll that into our efficiency programs.”

On the residential side, Bell said the utility’s “hallmark offering” is a free home energy audit, through which the utility can market other programs. Typical improvements might include new LED lighting, a programmable thermostat, low-flow shower heads, and discounts on air and ceiling duct work and insulation. It’s paid for by the MassSave program, funded through a charge on customer bills.

On the commercial side, National Grid offers discounts on energy efficient products, and Bell said that typically includes “a process where we’ll have our staff provide technical assistance to our commercial customers so we can offer them the best savings.”

Innovative programs, connected devices

The utility has also installed 15,000 smart meters in its Worcester, Mass., service area, which is opening up a trough of opportunities including demand response.  “We have some really cool projects that get me really excited,” Bell said.

The Worcester program is called Smart Energy Solutions, and hinges on the smart meter. But the program can also include an in-home display giving the customer insight into their usage as well as rates and when the utility needs to ramp down demand.

The utility has also launched a demand response focused project called ConnectedSolutions, which aims to leverage a growing emphasis on the Internet of Things. “The concept is a smart, connected home and a program that can drive behavior change to maximize the comfort in the customer’s home and help them achieve higher energy savings,” Bell said.

National Grid partnered with Weatherbug Home to construct a platform where customers can connect their devices and participate in demand response and efficiency programs. From the utility perspective, the program uses WeatherBug Home’s ability to integrate proprietary weather data with energy consumption modeling from connected devices to better predict and manage demand.

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