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It’s win-some, lose-some for Mass. federal energy grants

The state missed out on a $250 million grant to better manage offshore wind power, but it landed $50 million grants for a “future grid” project and to electrify low-income households

Offshore wind turbines under construction in the waters south of Massachusetts.David L. Ryan/Globe Staff

Massachusetts scored two wins and one loss in the latest competition for federal energy infrastructure dollars.

The Healey administration came up short in its joint bid for up to $250 million to upgrade the electric grid in Southeastern Massachusetts so it can better accommodate an anticipated influx of offshore wind power and solar power. This request, made in partnership with Eversource and National Grid, to help defray the costs of the roughly $1 billion Cleaner Grid New England project was not awarded any funding in the first round of the US Department of Energy’s Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program.

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The GRIP program, as it’s known, is funded by $10.5 billion from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that Congress passed in 2021, and its primary purposes are to enhance grid flexibility across the country while buttressing electrical infrastructure against climate change and extreme weather.

However, National Grid did land GRIP subsidies for a separate project in Massachusetts and New York. National Grid won $50 million to subsidize a “Future Grid” project, essentially a massive technology purchase for the utility’s operations across both states that will total $140 million. (The remainder will be covered by National Grid electric ratepayers.) This project will use software to better manage and control so-called distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar panels, electric vehicle chargers, and battery storage. Hardware such as smart meters will also be deployed. Main goals include ensuring the grid’s reliability during times of peak demand and reducing greenhouse gas emissions as the grid’s sources of power shift from a relatively small number of large power plants to numerous distributed units.

Reihaneh Irani-Famili, vice president of clean energy development at National Grid, said the work could take as long as five years to complete. She said the project will give National Grid more visibility about the various distributed units on the grid with the goal of creating a more resilient and efficient system.

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The other winner with local implications was Generac, which makes backup power generation products. Generac landed a $50 million award to support the conversion of the homes of up to 2,000 low-income Massachusetts residents from fossil-fuel heating to electric heat by installing batteries, smart thermostats, and control technology. Generac wants to use the money to prove that the electrification of building heat can be achieved without overly stressing the grid or causing reliability issues. The plan calls for using Generac’s system to send control signals to heat pumps, thermostats, hot water heaters, and batteries to minimize their impact on the grid while providing reliability for the participating residents.

National Grid won a $50 million federal grant to upgrade power grid technology to better handle demand from new uses such as electric vehicle chargers.Justin Sullivan/Getty

Generac executive Anne Hoskins said her Wisconsin-based company picked Massachusetts for this pilot program because of the ample usage of distributed energy resources here and because policy makers in the state have committed to promoting electric heat pumps and electric batteries to reach the state’s aggressive goals to reduce carbon emissions. She hopes that Generac’s pilot program in Massachusetts can be replicated around the country.

The Healey administration said it supplied support letters to the Department of Energy for the National Grid and Generac requests.

“Through these two innovative projects, we can continue to ready our grid for the future and support job training and workforce development,” Elizabeth Mahony, the Healey administration’s energy resources commissioner, said in a prepared statement. “While we are disappointed that the state’s application for solar and offshore wind-related transmission infrastructure was not awarded this round, we are well on our way to preparing for the next round of funding, in coordination with our fellow New England states. Our administration is competing aggressively for every federal dollar available.”

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Jon Chesto can be reached at jon.chesto@globe.com. Follow him @jonchesto.