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National Grid, Eversource take a big step toward modernizing the electric grid

The way we communicate by phone has changed dramatically in the past three decades. The way we get electricity? Not so much.

Change could finally be coming, though, under electricity grid modernization plans that National Grid and Eversource Energy filed on Wednesday with the state Department of Public Utilities.

One of the main goals of the utilities’ plans is to encourage the installation of “smart meters” at homes across the state. These devices, among other things, allow consumers to reduce electric bills by using power at off-peak times and alert utilities quickly to outages.

The filings are in response to a request from the DPU last year, under then-Governor Deval Patrick. One of the larger policy goals is to create a more efficient grid, one that presumably need less electricity to operate, and potentially a more reliable one.

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But all these fancy devices won’t be free. Eversource said its plans could cost between $67 million and $120 million over the course of five years, while National Grid’s proposed costs range from $225 million and $830 million for the same time period.

The exact cost would depend on which option gets picked by state regulators. For example, National Grid’s most expensive plan would install smart meters at all customer locations in its service area, except for those who voluntarily opt out of the installation, while the least expensive plan would only install smart meters at homes of consumers who sign up for the program on their own initiative.

National Grid estimates that its programs could increase the typical residential customer’s monthly electric bill by between 0.25 percent and 1 percent for the five-year period, depending on the option that’s picked by state officials.

A spokesman for Eversource, meanwhile, said its plans could raise the typical residential bill by 0.2 to 0.4 percent, adding 20 to 40 cents to a $100 monthly bill.

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