NH explores electric grid modernization

New Hampshire regulators are considering whether and how to modernize the state’s electric grid. In a recently opened investigation, the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission seeks to educate stakeholders about grid modernization and to explore to what extent that grid modernization is workable in New Hampshire.

Last year, the New Hampshire Office of Energy & Planning issued its 10-Year State Energy Strategy. In that document, the administration called for "a more flexible and resilient electric grid to support new technologies, increase consumer participation in energy management, and fortify our resiliency in the face of price and supply volatility and extreme weather events." The first step identified in the Energy Strategy was to open a PUC docket on grid modernization:

The electric grid is aging, and changing consumer use patterns, a new generation mix, and increased threats from severe weather events require a more modern system. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission should open a docket to determine how to advance grid modernization in the state. In light of the potential breadth of the topic, which could include dynamic pricing, better consumer access to technology, and even rethinking the role of utilities, an investigation or information ‐ gathering proceeding may be an appropriate first step. This less formal proceeding would give all stakeholders a chance to learn about grid modernization and could inform the specific areas that should be pursued within future dockets. This would allow the PUC and stakeholders to determine which approaches will benefit New Hampshire consumers, and when and how they should be implemented.

Earlier this summer, the New Hampshire legislature enacted House Bill 614, implementing the recommendations in the Energy Strategy. As Governor Hassan noted in her signing statement, the bill requires the Public Utilities Commission to "begin a process focused on modernizing our electric grid to ensure that we are prepared for an innovative energy future and to set an electricity peak time reduction goal, which can help lower the high costs of producing electricity when demand is greatest."

That process is now underway. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission opened its investigation by order dated July 30, 2015. The Commission gave interested parties until September 17, 2015 to provide comment on the definition, or elements, of grid modernization that should be included in its investigation. The Commission directed its staff to schedule a technical session following a review of comments submitted, and to develop a procedural schedule for the rest of the case.