An unusual energy storage program has allowed Green Mountain Power to save its customers about $3 million so far this year by reducing the need for outside electricity during peak needs, according to a statement released by the utility.
Josh Castonguay, vice-president and chief innovation officer for Green Mountain Power said a network of batteries across its service area which keep the lights on during power outages.
“Essentially, GMP, like every utility in New England, has to pay every month, based on the peak demand energy used that month. They pay a certain rate. It’s a factor of ‘What’s the peak hour of that month?’ So the lower we make that peak hour, the less we have to pay, the less our customers have to pay,” he said.
But GMP has promoted and sold two home battery programs, Bring Your Own Device and Powerwall, continuing two previous pilot programs.
Those batteries provide continuing power to their owner’s homes if there is an interruption, but GMP can also tap into a small amount to reduce the need to take electricity from the grid and therefore reduce the peak use.
“We call on those batteries during those peak hours, and we knock that peak down, and that’s how we save,” he said.
According to GMP, batteries in their programs provided more than 16,000 hours of backup power to customers this year.
Megan Cannucci, of Proctor, said her family has had a Powerwall battery for about two years and called it “amazing.”
“The power outages don’t happen often, but when they do. ... There (were) a couple during the winter, and you don’t even know when the power goes out,” she said.
Cannucci recalled one winter day when friends would stop by because everyone else was waiting for an outage to be repaired, but her family’s home was still lit up.
Having four children, that continuity is important, she added.
Castonguay said the plan to use batteries that would serve the customer and GMP’s efforts to cut peak hours required planning to develop and find the right hardware, software and the technology.
“The idea of using batteries, aggregated in homes, to knock down those peaks was very much novel,” he said.
The program could grow if more families like the Cannuccis adopt to battery use, Castonguay said. He said his dream would be for every home in the GMP service area to have a battery.
The peak hours are also the most carbon-intensive, so battery use reduces the overall carbon footprint.
In a statement, Mari McClure, GMP president and CEO, said the utility is “focused on growing this innovative work.”
“Energy storage programs like this are delivering meaningful results, showing a path to help the economy, while reducing costs and carbon at the same time,” she said.
According to Castonguay, utilities in other areas are watching Vermont.
“We’ve got a lot of utilities around New England, as well as the country, reach out over the last year to just understand it, how we’re doing it. … We’re hoping this is repeated widely” he said.
The batteries also have a practical use for owners as climate change creates stronger storms and more unpredictable weather.
“We look at it these two ways. Number 1, are we doing everything we possibly can to reduce our greenhouse gas footprint, period. What are we doing to reduce our CO2 emissions in Vermont? … Number 2, we have the unfortunate reality that climate change is here, and it’s still getting worse. The weather impacts are just mind-blowing. … Let’s do everything we can to keep customers as resilient and reliable as we possibly can while also doing everything to reduce our greenhouse footprint as a state,’” he said.