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By Stephen J. Woerner (president of National Grid New England)
We are at an inflection point. To meet the Commonwealth’s nation-leading climate change, clean energy, and equity goals — goals that we share — we must begin building this future now. We have an opportunity to make real and lasting change for all our communities and the state, but it will take harnessing Massachusetts’ innovative and collaborative spirit to achieve an energy future that works for all.
At National Grid, we are excited to do our part.
Today, the natural gas network in Massachusetts carries three times as much energy at peak as the electric network, mostly to meet heating needs, with delivered fuels, such as heating oil, also playing a critical role. At the same time, internal combustion vehicles represent almost all vehicles on the road and rely on an established and ubiquitous fueling network that took more than 100 years to build. Making this shift from a multi-fuel energy system to one primarily reliant on electricity to meet the Commonwealth’s net-zero greenhouse gas emissions goals by 2050 will require a major build-out of the grid.
This requires a comprehensive, thoughtful, and orderly plan to expand and upgrade today’s electric grid at a significant pace and scale to enable increased electrification and move away from a fossil-based economy. To support this future, the electric grid must be fundamentally smarter, stronger, and cleaner than it is today.
A smarter and more intelligent system will provide customers with a wider array of options and the ability to make clean energy decisions that work for them. A stronger system will ensure the grid is more robust, better able to withstand the impacts of climate change, and is protected against evolving threats. Additionally, a cleaner system can connect more renewable resources, energy storage, and electrified transportation as well as heating quicker at all levels and leverage these resources to create value for the grid and customers.
The state’s electric distribution companies, including National Grid, recently delivered plans to transform the grid of the past into a smarter, more resilient two-way electricity superhighway that powers sustainable communities today and into the future and provides all customers the opportunity to participate in and benefit from the clean energy transition.
National Grid’s plan — known as Future Grid — builds on previous investments we’ve made and actions taken to deliver clean, reliable, and affordable electricity for all our customers. That includes maintaining systemwide reliability at 99.9 percent; connecting 200 megawatts of distributed energy resources in 2022 for a total of more than 2 gigawatts connected to our system; supporting the installation of 10,000 heat pumps through Mass Save, with a goal of another 21,000 by 2024; and enabling the installation of more than 1,800 electric vehicle chargers, with another 32,000 to come.
The Future Grid plan begins to define the scope and scale of what we collectively must do over the coming years and decades to combat climate change and enable a more electrified future, as well as the policy and regulatory changes needed to make it happen.
Over the next five years, to keep progress going, our Future Grid plan proposes approximately $2 billion in investment in three key areas: network infrastructure like substations, poles, and wires; technology and platforms like IT systems, automation, real-time monitoring equipment, and sensors; and customer-facing programs, including those to enable more solar, efficiency, and electrified transportation. Our proposal also includes plans to expand our strategic workforce development program launched this past spring.
These investments will make sure our grid is ready, reliable, and secure; that customers are able to make the clean energy choices that work for them when they want them; and that we provide opportunities to the communities we serve.
Our Future Grid plan also offers the ability to do things differently and to provide economic and environmental benefits, including more than $1.4 billion in additional economic activity, 11,000 part- and full-time jobs, and enough system capacity to power more than 1 million electric vehicles and 750,000 heat pumps across our service area, as well as connect more solar and storage to the grid.
As we move forward, we will continue to engage broadly to gain input that ensures the clean energy transition is supportive of and responsive to the needs and expectations of all our customers and communities. We know implementing a plan this transformative will require working together to ensure we are driving economic and environmental benefits in communities that have historically been burdened and left behind by the fossil-based economy, including through changes to current investment, permitting, and regulatory policies.
We are excited about the potential of our Future Grid Plan to deliver a fair, affordable, and clean energy transition that will empower all our customers and communities throughout Massachusetts by building a smarter, stronger, cleaner, and more equitable energy future.