New Hampshire may soon be modernizing its electric grid and developing microgrids. This is at the suggestion of a 10-year state energy strategy issued by the state Office of Energy & Planning.
While the strategy report does not contain any mandates, officials hope that law-makers and state agencies use the report as a resource when drafting future energy policy. “We can’t make anybody do anything through a strategy,” said Meredith Hatfield, director of the energy office. “I’m hopeful that people will look at the recommendations and decide to take action to try to implement them.”
Modernising the grid to support microgrids
The advisory agency recently recommended that the Public Utilities Commission investigate grid modernization which is in keeping with similar action in Massachusetts and New York. The states are looking at how to make the grid more storm-resilient, economic and efficient with microgrids, distributed energy, smart meters and other solutions that encourage the development of local energy.
The report indicates that since the devastation of Superstorm Sandy, microgrids are being prioritized on a national level. Princeton University’s microgrid certainly serves as a good example and model as it is recognised globally for its resilience. The microgrid was able to withstand the superstorm which hit the US two years ago.
While more than eight million electric customers lost their power, the university was able to power its essential buildings and operations thanks to its microgrid which was islanded, or disconnected, from the local utility, Public Service Gas & Electric. The campus received power from its on-site 15MW combined heat and power plant, part of a microgrid that includes district heating and cooling, chilled water, thermal storage, a 5.4MW solar photovoltaic farm, and an advanced control system. The facility serves a campus community of 12,000 people across about 150 buildings.
“While these types of advances are exciting and can offer important benefits to critical facilities, the underlying grid system must be sufficiently modernized to enable them,” said the “New Hampshire 10-Year State Energy Strategy.”
The plans are calling for New Hampshire to begin with an informal information‐gathering proceeding that will give stakeholders a chance to learn about grid modernization and help regulators devise a direction.
Energy strategy suggests innovative technologies
The report suggests that New Hampshire build on modernization efforts already underway in not only Massachusetts and New York, but also Connecticut and Maryland, and within the Department of Energy. Vermont’s largest investor-owned utility is also putting together its microgrid plan. [Engerati – Community Microgrids Coming to New York.] and [Engerati – Microgrids Are Coming To Vermont.]
The report suggests that any new models should incorporate innovative technologies as they come to market. In particular, the report focuses on electric storage technologies as the market is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade due to the benefits for the grid.
As state regulators are investigating these next steps, utilities and the state should begin educating consumers about smart grid, so that demand builds for the technologies in advance, the report said.
Required under state law, the plan is meant to guide state lawmakers, government agencies, businesses, non-profits and private citizens as they make future decisions about energy policy.
In addition to grid modernization, the plan recommends steps that would increase energy efficiency, combined heat and power (CHP), solar and other forms of clean energy. These include:
Setting a statewide energy efficiency goal
Realigning utility incentives so that they pursue energy efficiency
Improving coordination and design of existing energy efficiency programs
Improving consumer financing for energy efficiency
Recommitting to the state’s renewable portfolio standard of 25% by 2025
Attracting more private financing for distributed generation
Preparing the state for electric vehicles
Building a brighter energy future
Gov. Maggie Hassan described the 10-year strategy as “critically needed.” She added that “it will take continued bipartisan cooperation to implement the recommendations set out in the strategy, so that we can reduce costs and build a brighter energy future for our families, businesses and economy.”
According to Christophe Courchesne, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, the strategy’s recommendations are very doable: “New Hampshire should move quickly to make the policy and legislative changes needed for implementation as the strategy notes, ‘the time for action is now.’ ”