Avangrid pitches $2.5B in resilience measures

Source: Saqib Rahim, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, July 2, 2018

Grid-wrecking storms are “the new normal,” energy giant Avangrid Inc. said as it rolled out $2.5 billion in proposed resilience measures this week.

The upgrades were proposed for Avangrid’s systems in Maine and New York, where the company operates utilities. They’d have to be approved by utility regulators before they could be folded into customer bills.

But they’re warranted, the company said, because storms are getting more frequent and severe. Over the last 16 months alone, Avangrid said, its networks have taken an estimated $450 million in damages.

“There have been multiple storm events over the past 16 months that have proven the trend is varying. [Whether] that be the recent March storms in NY or the October storms in ME,” Michael West Jr., a vice president with the company, said in an email. “Customers are asking for changes and we are working to accommodate that.”

The company’s subsidiaries serve 3.2 million natural gas and power customers in New York and New England. The company has a separate effort in Maine to develop a $950 million power line that would link Massachusetts to hydropower in Canada. That proposal is still before Maine regulators (Energywire, April 25).

The resiliency proposal includes a fusillade of investments over the next 10 years, some of them more glamorous than others. On the fancier end is a proposal for a “full implementation” of advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), which some call “smart meters.”

Avangrid said these would help it find and fix problems on the grid more quickly in future storms, as well as give customers more control over their energy use if they want it. Avangrid has a pending proposal in New York for $500 million in smart-meter deployments at two upstate utilities.

New York regulators have approved smart-meter rollouts before. In the New York City area, Consolidated Edison is in the midst of deploying some 4.7 million meters, at a forecast cost of just under $1.3 billion.

Avangrid Networks CEO Bob Kump said the plan is subject to refinement and that the company will work with policymakers to meet customer demands “in a cost-efficient manner.”

The resiliency plan also contains some lower-tech actions for resiliency, such as tree clearing. Avangrid said trees cause 80 percent of storm-related outages. The company said it will revisit its “vegetation” policies and study where a trim might benefit the system.

Avangrid said more than half of this vegetation is outside its right of way, however, so it will have to work with local communities to gain access to the foliage.

“This is another effort that will require coordination and partnership with regulators, local municipalities and residents,” West said. “There is no one set process for either state.”