Electric Energy and Policy

National Grid, delay and capacity problems, and the Chamber’s efforts to support businesses

In March 2019, the Chamber sent a letter to the Department of Public Utilities challenging National Grid on their rate case, a formal process, conducted by utility regulators, to determine if the utility’s proposed base rates are just and reasonable. The process starts with the utility company filing an application and testimony with the utilities commission. This application includes the total costs to serve customers and includes a justification as to why current rates are no longer sufficient.

The Chamber argued that our economic development momentum is at risk because of the persistent challenges that developers and property owners have with National Grid. Worcester is their largest municipal jurisdiction in the state, yet the region does not get the service that you would expect in such a vast area.

The ongoing challenges with National Grid manifest themselves in a number of ways and they consistently require the advocacy, intervention, and engagement of Chamber staff, other local business organizations, and high ranking municipal officials to resolve because of ongoing staffing and customer service issues within the utility. Over the past five years, scheduled monthly meetings, ad hoc meetings, and countless telephone calls and emails between National Grid and these stakeholders have brought little, if any, improvements. These ongoing challenges with National Grid fall into these general categories:

Capacity-Length of Time    |    According to National Grid’s Electric Service Construction Roadmap, The best-case scenario timeline to accommodate services upgrades, replacements, or inter-connections is 40 weeks (10 months). The process involves engineering design and construction. The following are just a few of many examples of National Grid’s staffing capacity issues and inability to deliver in a timely manner.

Main Street Vaults    |    Local, state, and federal dollars are currently being used for a major Main Street resurfacing program from Lincoln Square to Main and Madison streets in Worcester. This resurfacing includes new, decorative, ADA compliant sidewalks, bike lanes, decorative lamps, public art, and green spaces. While the project is underway, it requires 14 electrical vault upgrades, of which National Grid was reportedly notified in 2014. The utility has stated that they will upgrade one vault per year. At that rate, it would take 14 years to complete the project. This adversely impacts many Main Street businesses and often, city officials are unfairly, and incorrectly blamed.

Tolley Yard Plaza    |    The former Worcester Regional Transit Authority site on Grove Street is currently being redeveloped into a retail plaza. Significant delays regarding the change and upgrade service have prevented the developer, and a number of tenants, from opening on time and has caused considerable financial expense.

Manufacturers    |    Several key manufacturers, and major employers in the city, have voiced similar concerns about timelines and National Grid’s ability to complete projects in a timely manner. This delay adversely impacts manufacturers and their ability to meet the needs of their customers and plan production work. Further, it jeopardizes their ability to compete globally.

Co-Generation/Solar Installation and Distribution    |    As Massachusetts, the City of Worcester, and businesses pursue a green future, much progress has been made in the areas of energy efficiency and the expansion of renewables, especially solar energy. Again, this pursuit is being stymied in the City of Worcester because of National Grid’s unwillingness to implement policy and system changes that would allow private generators of solar energy to tie into their system.