According to Bloomberg News, demand for grid power in the Northeast may be cut by half by 2030 due to the rapid increase in home solar and battery storage systems.
A report dated April 7 from the Rocky Mountain Institute estimates utility companies in the area may lose as much as $35 billion in sales, thanks to home owners and small businesses relying more and more on solar power to meet their energy needs. That report also says the utilities will need to spend more than a trillion dollars over the next 15 years to maintain the existing electrical grid.
“For owners and operators of central generation and transmission facilities, our findings are likely bad news,” RMI staffers James Mandel and Leia Guccione wrote in the report. “Utilities need to find new business models that incorporate these systems into their networks.” The Institute issued another report recently that urges utilities to leverage their unique relationship with customers in order to develop new sources of revenue using the Integrated Utility Services model RMI developed for Fort Collins Utilities in Colorado.
“Future energy policy must include support for a clean, affordable, reliable grid for everyone, while enabling utility programs that encourage targeted, non-traditional investments like the development of customer-based technologies where it’s beneficial,” Allan Drury, a spokesman for New York-based Consolidated Edison Inc., said Tuesday.
Rudy Wynter, president of National Grid, which supplies power to 3.4 million customers in New York, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, disagrees: “Larger scale solar installations and wind are much more economic when done at utility scale,” said Wynter.
Regulators in New York, California and Hawaii are already considering ways to allow power companies to earn money while accommodating more solar and power storage on their grids. California utility owners PG&E and Edison International say there are growth opportunities from making investments to allow for two way flows of electricity in their grids as more customers install solar and storage units.
“These conversations about new regulatory frameworks and rate structures need to be happening more quickly than at present,” RMI’s Guccione said in a telephone interview. “There is a real, actual and significant cost to doing nothing.”