Why New Hampshire could be the next state to take on microgrids

Why New Hampshire could be the next state to take on microgrids

New Hampshire soon may be charting a course toward electric grid modernization — and microgrids — if it follows the advice in a 10-year energy strategy issued by the state Office of Energy & Planning.

The advisory agency recently recommended that the Public Utilities Commission investigate grid modernization, 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 approaches that foster local energy.

The report noted that in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, “microgrids have gained national prominence,” with Princeton University’s microgrid serving as a model.

“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,” stated the New Hampshire 10-Year State Energy Strategy (PDF) document.

The plans calls 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 hone a direction. Some aspects of grid modernization may work in the state; others not.

New Hampshire should build upon modernization efforts already underway not only in Massachusetts and New York, but also Connecticut and Maryland, and within the Department of Energy, the report said. (Vermont’s largest investor-owned utility also is pursuing a microgrid strategy.)

Any new model should incorporate innovative technologies as they come to market, the report stated: “In particular, electric storage technologies are an area that is expected to grow rapidly in the next decade, and they have the potential to provide substantial benefits to the system.”

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 calling for grid modernization, the plan recommends steps that would increase energy efficiency, combined heat and power (CHP), solar and other forms of clean energy. They 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
  • Recommiting to the state’s renewable portfolio standard of 25 percent by 2025; forecasts show the state unlikely to meet the goal if it continues business as usual
  • Attracting more private financing for distributed generation
  • Readying the state for electric vehicles

Gov. Maggie Hassan described the 10-year strategy as “critically needed. ... 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.”

The full strategy is available here.

This story originally appeared in Microgrid Knowledge and is reprinted with permission. Top image of New England farm house by Edward Fielding via Shutterstock