Recap: Boston Q2, Smart Buildings and Grid Modernization

- Michael Ramsey, AEG Fellow               

Boston’s Q2 series on Smart Buildings and Grid Modernization this past June brought together a diverse crowd of energized and engaged stakeholders to discuss the city’s future energy system. The series entailed a variety of events that provided attendees the opportunity to establish and reinforce relationships, to exchange diverse perspectives, and to take leadership roles within the local energy stakeholder community.

The first event was a cocktail hour and dinner that set the stage for the remaining events. A staple of an AEG series, the dinner not only provided a great dining experience, but also the opportunity for its attendees to engage with one another and give their own opinion on the series topic. Attendees were asked to provide a problem statement detailing the fundamental issue in advancing the energy system, within the realm of Smart Buildings and Grid Modernization.

  Ken Horne from Navigant facilitating the event

Ken Horne from Navigant facilitating the event

The highlight event of the series is the breakfast, which entails discussion leader presentations, as well as a group problem solving exercise to brainstorm solutions to the established problem statement. This breakfast was hosted at the offices of Holland & Knight and facilitated by Navigant’s Ken Horne, Director of Smart Grid in Emerging Technology and Business Strategy. Ken gave a primer on the discussion leaders, noting that the sequence of presentations covers the Q2 topic at the building, building system, distribution, and wholesale levels.  The event’s discussion leaders included:

  • Dennis Villanueva, Senior Manager, Energy & Sustainability - ‎Partners HealthCare System

  • Joe Dalton, Project Director, MATEP LLC/Longwood Medical (ENGIE)

  • Jim Hunt, SVP for Regulatory Affairs & Chief Communications Officer, Eversource Energy

  • Judith Judson, ‎Commissioner, ‎Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

  • Chris Parent, Director, Market Development at ISO New England

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Dennis Villanueva, Senior Manager for Energy & Sustainability of Partners HealthCare System, was the first of our speakers and shared his expertise on advanced energy systems for healthcare building operations. Healthcare facilities have been prioritized for energy upgrades due to their critical necessity within society and the importance of reducing energy costs to provide affordable healthcare. These high energy standards include resiliency, efficiency, and utilization of renewables, and the means of executing on these targets includes utilizing grid assets, as well as onsite and off-grid energy assets.

  Joe Dalton, Project Director, MATEP LLC/Longwood Medical (ENGIE)

Joe Dalton, Project Director, MATEP LLC/Longwood Medical (ENGIE)

Joe Dalton, Project Director of ENGIE’s recently acquired MATEP/Longwood Energy Partners manages the energy system for multiple healthcare facilities within Boston. These buildings utilize the microgrid facility MATEP (Medical Area Total Energy Plant). Joe shared his insights on how energy redundancy is critical for these health and research facilities, and how their strategy focuses on the “3 D’s” of the future energy system: decarbonized, decentralized, and digitalized. Joe also shared his appreciation for how his operations are just one layer out of many systems within the network, which highly resonated with the audience.

  Jim Hunt, SVP, Eversource Energy

Jim Hunt, SVP, Eversource Energy

Jim Hunt, SVP of Regulatory Affairs & Chief Communication Officer of Eversource Energy reminded the stakeholder group of its efficiency efforts that have provided such a great track record for Massachusetts. Jim acknowledged that strong collaboration with the City of Boston was of critical importance, as well as leveraging its positive relationship with its customers. Nonetheless Jim agrees there is still a long way to go in optimizing the energy system. Eversource wants to further tap into its unique customer relationships by implementing demand response programs, and distributed energy storage and EV charging networks.

  Judith Judson, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

Judith Judson, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources

Judith Judson, Commissioner of Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources, shared her perspective on achieving Massachusetts’ goal of creating a clean, affordable, and resilient energy future. She noted the high success of the efficiency programs thanks to the Green Communities Program, which provides grants, technical assistance, and local support to help state municipalities implement clean energy projects. Judi suggested that efficiency was the low-hanging fruit in terms of energy upgrades. She believes the next major opportunities are:

  • Reducing peak loads through demand response management

  • Reducing gas consumption by fuel switching programs

  • Setting higher standards for buildings including ubiquitous LED lighting, and ‘EV Readiness’ for new buildings, where the wiring is built for future EV charging stations

  • Mass implementation of energy storage technology through the Energy Storage Initiative

  Chris Parent, Director, ISO NE

Chris Parent, Director, ISO NE

Chris Parent, Director of Market Development at ISO New England, highlighted the demand response programs being planned for the energy market of the future. NE ISO has been actively working for years to effectively integrate demand response into the wholesale market. Key themes include active demand response with distributed generation and storage, and passive demand response through efficiency.  Chris also outlined a key difference in language between the ISO and city demand response markets. The ISO talks in units of megawatts, whereas the city demand response efforts are ordinarily referred to in kilowatts. Therefore, Chris claims aggregation of multiple small-scale demand response participants is necessary for effective wholesale implementation.

Following these insightful presentations, the event took a more interactive turn to engage with stakeholders further. The stakeholders were asked to deliver their verdict on the three most important action items necessary to help Boston overcome the problem statement produced during the previous night’s dinner:

“We lack the market conditions and political will to replace our infrastructure with systems that will enable Boston to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050”

This discussion session utilized a new seating arrangement for AEG Boston, breaking the room into separate tables to compete against one another. During this discussion session AEG also showcased a new piece of technology for the Boston events - an interactive voting system, accessed through each stakeholder’s mobile device. The system allowed equal participation from all attendees, which, combined with its ease of use and display features, really engaged the audience. AEG is always looking to innovate, and to enhance the experience for its stakeholders - on this occasion it was clear the new changes contributed to a lively debate.

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Following 45 minutes of discussion, each table presented their three action points and submitted them electronically for voting by the whole group. From the ten tables of 60 stakeholders, the three major action points for the City of Boston energy planners were:

  1. Deep Energy Retrofit all existing buildings
  2. Electrify Transportation & Incentivize Public Transportation
  3. Repurpose Gas Infrastructure for Renewable Gases

These results were further discussed in detail to identify the challenges in implementing these solutions. This valuable feedback is considered by the City of Boston and also provides insights for the local stakeholder community. AEG's Boston chapter can conclude this quarter as a success and is now preparing for Q3: Internet of Things.  

Advanced Energy Group is a stakeholder member-supported organization committed to developing and delivering advanced energy policies and solutions in key cities.  Stakeholder sessions are by invitation only.  For details of our programming please visit:

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