Liberty Utilities, one of the three major electric companies in New Hampshire, is asking for regulatory permission to subsidize at least 300 customers to install batteries in their homes as part of a grid-stabilization experiment.
I’ve written about the proposal but not to any real depth, so I was interested in this long piece from Greentech Media that looked into the argument over the plan. They call it unique, but not because of technical specs. What interests them is that it’s the utility proposing the funky non-wires alternative while independent solar folks are balking.
It’s a familiar narrative: Hopeful energy modernization advocate tries to reduce grid costs with distributed energy resources, only to get pushback from skeptics and an energy company worried about its bottom line. This time, in New Hampshire, the roles are all flipped around. ….
Liberty seems to have drunk the grid modernization Kool-Aid. Its filing, by senior analyst Heather Tebbetts, cites the rise of Amazon and Netflix to suggest the grid needs to update, and fast.
But Sunrun, a leading distributed energy advocate in many state policy discussions, is arguing that the pilot as proposed should be halted or drastically scaled down. And the regulator’s staff, rather than encouraging the utility to try innovative cost-cutting techniques, has voiced skepticism about the technical abilities of the program to accurately predict peaks and deliver enough capacity to deal with them.
Sunrun’s concern seems to be similar to concerns raised when utilities want to own solar panels: It can drive out independent competition, leaving us dependent on a monopoly utility just like we were before deregulation.
Liberty Utility Electric is such a different animal than Liberty Utilities Gas! Heather Tebbetts is a pioneer in my opinion. In the Grid Modernization Working Group, Heather was able to help move her colleagues from the other utilities to be more open minded about opening up the grid for distributed generation and better instrumentation. Liberty has smart meters. They have positioned themselves to be Smart Grid ready.
Frankly, I’m disappointed in SunRun. We all have to get over the idea that just because a company installs renewable energy doesn’t mean they are “pure” and don’t care about profit. SunRun and other solar lobbyists were able to remove a requirement that energy audits showing industrial customers how to reduce their energy demands BEFORE they installed solar had to be performed to qualify for subsidies. That’s not good for anyone except the solar companies.
I hope Liberty gets the support it needs to move forward with the pilot. It’s innovative and we’ll learn a lot from it.