Util­ity helps wean peo­ple of Ver­mont from the elec­tric grid

Miami Herald - - FRONT PAGE -

As a prac­ti­cal mat­ter, the less elec­tric­ity the util­ity pulls from the re­gional trans­mis­sion sys­tem, es­pe­cially at times of peak de­mand, the less it has to pay in fees, pro­duc­ing sav­ings it can pass on to cus­tomers. One way it does this is by re­motely con­trol­ling the bat­ter­ies in­stalled through its pro­grams, draw­ing upon the stored en­ergy as needed.

Re­cently, Pow­ell said, Green Moun­tain used this method to take the low-in­come de­vel­op­ment here off the grid’s elec­tric­ity sup­ply for two hours, sav­ing an es­ti­mated $275 in trans­mis­sion costs while the homes were pow­ered by so­lar pan­els or bat­tery stor­age. The amount saved was small, but such sav­ings could add up over a year if they were re­al­ized in enough lo­ca­tions.

The util­ity, owned by Gaz Metro, a lead­ing nat­u­ral gas dis­trib­u­tor in Que­bec, is also work­ing to re­duce its car­bon diox­ide emis­sions as part of the ef­fort to slow global warm­ing. In 2014, it be­came a B Cor­po­ra­tion. That is a vol­un­tary des­ig­na­tion, re­quir­ing ex­ec­u­tives to take into ac­count not just how de­ci­sions will af­fect profit and share­hold­ers, but also how they will af­fect the pub­lic, gen­er­ally de­fined as so­ci­ety or the en­vi­ron­ment.

As part of that mis­sion, Green Moun­tain be­came the first util­ity to of­fer cus­tomers ac­cess to Tesla’s Pow­er­wall home bat­tery sys­tem when it was re­leased in 2015. Now it is start­ing a new pro­gram, an­nounced in May, that will of­fer the bat- tery to as many as 2,000 cus­tomers for $15 a month over 10 years, or a one-time pay­ment of $1,500. The pack­age will in­clude soft­ware and a Nest ther­mo­stat, which con­serves elec­tric­ity by ad­just­ing tem­per­a­tures to com­ings and go­ings as well as es­tab­lished rou­tines.

The idea is that cus­tomers, es­pe­cially when they have so­lar pan­els, heat pumps and elec­tric ve­hi­cles, will be bet­ter able to mon­i­tor and man­age their en­ergy use.

The util­ity, us­ing Tesla’s soft­ware, will be able to call upon the stored en­ergy in the com­bined bat­ter­ies to help meet surges in de­mand or to sell it on the whole­sale mar­ket to help bal­ance or smooth out fluc­tu­a­tions within the re­gion.

The ef­forts have won plau­dits from na­tional green-en­ergy ad­vo­cates who see the util­ity as a leader in help­ing redesign the elec­tric sys­tem, which is un­der­go­ing enor­mous changes as re­new­able sources of en­ergy be­come more pop­u­lar and other tech­nolo­gies give cus­tomers more con­trol. Many util­i­ties see such moves as an ex­is­ten­tial threat be­cause their prof­its come mainly from get­ting a set rate of re­turn that is fac­tored into cus­tomer rates.

But Green Moun­tain Power has “fig­ured out a way to do well and do good in the util­ity busi­ness and keep its reg­u­la­tors, in­vestors and cus­tomers all happy at the same time,” said Dan Re­icher, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Steyer-Tay­lor Cen­ter for En­ergy Pol­icy and Fi­nance at Stan­ford and a cus- tomer of the util­ity through a fam­ily home in Ver­mont. “That’s a big deal th­ese days when the rest of the in­dus­try is talk­ing about a death spi­ral.”

Green Moun­tain has still in­vested in large-scale re­new­able-power plants, like the Stafford Hill So­lar Farm — 11 acres of so­lar pan­els and bat­tery banks spread over a land­fill be­hind a town dump — and two wind farms. Those de­vel­op­ments have come in for crit­i­cism from some res­i­dents and of­fi­cials who ob­ject to liv­ing near noisy in­dus­trial ma­chines and worry about mar­ring the nat­u­ral beauty that draws res­i­dents and vis­i­tors to the state. The crit­ics in­clude Gov. Phil Scott, a Repub­li­can who op­poses putting wind tur­bines along moun­tain ridges.

But many cus­tomers say they are happy to be part of green­ing the area’s en­ergy sup­ply, whether for the fi­nan­cial sav­ings, to re­duce green­house gas emis­sions and slow global warm­ing, or just to make sure the lights stay on in a power fail­ure.

“It’s not re­ally any dif­fer­ent than be­ing any­where else,” said Alexis LaBerge, 27, who was one of the first to move into the low-in­come de­vel­op­ment in Waltham from an old house that guz­zled fuel to keep the house and hot wa­ter heated.

Now, when the power from the grid goes out, as it did one night this spring, she does not have to worry about food spoil­ing in the re­frig­er­a­tor. “It’s def­i­nitely nice be­ing brand­new and hav­ing the backup,” she said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.