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Utility National Grid has launched the technology phase of its Smart Energy Solutions Program and is now making available to nearly 15,000 participating customers in Worcester, Mass., new tools that will help them have better insight into their energy use and costs.

The Smart Energy Solutions Program, National Grid says, is a comprehensive smart grid initiative that was developed in partnership with customers, the city of Worcester and other key parties to provide participating customers with a new level of control over their energy use through advanced technology. The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities approved the initiative in August 2012.

According to National Grid, the utility has upgraded more than 80% of the electric system associated with the program with new automation and infrastructure-enhancing devices. The company notes that all grid-facing investments are expected to be completed and in service this summer.

With smart meter installations complete, National Grid reports that participants are being invited to enroll in the technology package portion of the program. Every participating customer will have access to personalized electricity use online, including graphs and charts that will show how and when energy is used.

The utility adds that residential customers who meet certain eligibility requirements will be able to choose from various levels of energy management technology options, including the following:

- Online and mobile energy use applications to monitor and control electric use anytime and anywhere through smartphones, tablets and computers;

- Digital picture frames with real-time electricity usage information;

- Smart thermostats that can be remotely adjusted; and

- Electricity control devices to remotely monitor and control home equipment and appliances.

National Grid notes that commercial customers will have similar technology options.

A key feature of the Smart Energy Solutions Program, the utility says, is the installation of grid-side technology to help improve reliability and system performance. These investments cover approximately 150 miles of electricity distribution lines in Worcester and four local substations. According to National Grid, the 200 new devices that will be installed on the overhead and underground electric system include the following:

- Regulators that automatically maintain electric voltage;

- Reclosers that detect and reduce outage duration;

- Special controls to regulate transformers and other substation electrical equipment;

- Special automation on power lines, transformers, capacitors and other equipment that will speed power restoration;

- Indicators that allow faster identification of the location and cause of power outages; and

- A wireless communication network comprising 14 base stations.

National Grid adds that several transformer monitors will be installed at solar and wind distributed generation locations within the program area to help the company study the impact of distributed generation on the electric system.

Later this year, as part of the next phase of the Smart Energy Solutions Program, the utility says it will offer time-based pricing plans to help customers achieve greater energy savings.

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