The state’s investor-owned electric distribution companies — Eversource, National Grid and Unitil — have submitted drafts of their electric sector modernization plans.

These comprehensive plans are meant to ensure that the state’s electric infrastructure is able to handle increased demand due to further electrification of vehicles, heating systems, and other technologies.

The plans include an overview of all approved, reviewed, or under consideration distribution system investments and alternatives; distribution system improvements to increase system reliability and resiliency in the face of weather- and disaster-related risks; distribution system improvements to facilitate transportation and building electrification; forecasts considering five- and 10-year horizons; and an assessment of demand through 2050.

Eversource’s draft electric sector modernization plan identifies a need to construct 14 new substations and upgrade 12 others over the course of 10 years, with upgrades to six bulk substations, as well as plans to construct five new substations in the first five years of the plan (2025-2029).

National Grid’s draft plan articulates planned investments that include the upgrade and expansion of 18 existing substations and the construction of 28 new substations over the 10-year period, with upgrades to 10 existing substations and construction of three new substations in the first five years.

Unitil’s draft plan calls for upgrades to its Lunenburg substation and a new South Lunenburg substation, which would introduce a second supply system in its service area.

The ESMPs were submitted on Nov. 3 to the Grid Modernization Advisory Council, which is charged with reviewing and providing recommendations on the plans.

Electricity distributors received input from the general public and key stakeholders through two stakeholder focus groups, public comment by email, and advisory council meetings. Comments on the drafts were accepted through Dec. 10.

The MMA participated in the utility-led stakeholder sessions and submitted written comments.

The distribution companies are now revising their plans based on input. Revised drafts will be submitted to the Department of Public Utilities in January for their review process.

The Grid Modernization Advisory Council and electric sector modernization plan system was created by a major 2022 climate law, which requires the state’s distribution companies to prepare plans to upgrade the distribution system while also achieving the following objectives:
• Improve grid reliability, communications and resiliency
• Enable increased, timely adoption of renewable energy and distributed energy resources
• Promote energy storage and electrification technologies for decarbonization
• Prepare for climate-driven impacts on transmission and distribution systems
• Accommodate transportation and building electrification, and other new loads
• Minimize or mitigate impacts on ratepayers

The climate law also created the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Coordinating Council and the Clean Energy Transmission Working Group, among other programs. Gov. Maura Healey recently appointed a Commission on Clean Energy Infrastructure Siting and Permitting.

The collaborative process these groups have been engaging in will support future electrification efforts across Massachusetts. The work is intended to help shift key sectors away from fossil fuels with properly supported electricity generated through renewable energy.

The draft ESMPs are available on the Grid Modernization Advisory Council website, along with the input of the council and related materials.

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