California is already a leader in battery-equipped solar, and a lot of that is due in part to two smart, intertwined policies:
- Time-of-Use electricity pricing, which raises electricity prices during peak demand hours and lowers them when demand is less – encouraging customers to capture power when it is cheapest
- State subsidies that pay most of your battery’s cost
These two programs make batteries an easy addition to home solar, and now many Californians are reaping the rewards, keeping lights on when grid power goes out.
Better still, the whole community benefits from lower electricity prices, from electrical demand spread throughout the day, and from electrical generation closer to consumption, which reduces needs for more power plants and for more miles of power lines through tinder-dry forests.
As of now, neither Washington nor Idaho has time-of-use electricity pricing. But as we’ve seen in recent summers, unprecedented heat waves – both in record temperatures and number of total above-average days – means that air conditioning usage has been through the roof, which resulted in rolling blackouts in our region. This, along with the short winter days in our region, may have policy makers rethinking time-of-use.
When it comes to battery incentives, the powerful rebates and credits found in California have yet to arrive in our neck of the woods. But that could easily change as the climate challenge continues to grow, and as wildfire seasons grow even faster.
At Northwest Renewables we often install battery-equipped solar power systems for off-grid customers in remote locations, yet we haven’t always encouraged batteries for the other 90 percent of our customers, who are grid-connected. After all, batteries are costly, and the Northwestern states have uniform electricity pricing throughout the day, so there is no incentive to shift one’s time of consumption.
However, the prospect of extended power blackouts during longer, more dangerous fire seasons changes the conversation. Home batteries may begin to make sense here, especially for those in more remote locations where power lines are more likely to be shut down during fire weather, and where traditional winter outages are more likely as well.