GMP seeks to lift cap on home battery storage program

Published: May. 9, 2023 at 6:21 PM EDT
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BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - A popular power program could be growing exponentially in the coming years with the go-ahead from the state’s Public Utility Commission. Green Mountain Power is seeking to lift the cap on its Powerwall program with the goal of getting the battery storage technology into as many homes as possible.

In a basement in West Fairlee, two Tesla Powerwalls keep Nina Schwartz’s home powered up when the lights go out. “They seem to happen, on average, of about two hours at a time,” Schwartz said.

The occasional power outage her family expects. But this past winter, the Powerwalls got their biggest test since they were installed in 2019. Back-to-back snowstorms cut power in Schwartz’s neighborhood for three straight days. “We lost power on Friday at about 7 o’clock and didn’t have power again until about noon on Sunday,” Schwartz said. Running only the essentials like heat, refrigeration, and lights, the Powerwalls lasted the entire outage, with about 35% battery to spare. “We were warm, we had our heat, we had our power, we had our lights.”

GMP says this winter offered some of the worst storms in the state’s history when it comes to power outages. They say their Powerwall Program is designed not only for the increasingly powerful storms that will come with climate change, they also save all customers money. “What we have seen this past winter was an unprecedented number of storms, said GMP’s Kristin Carlson.

GMP can only install 1,000 batteries a year because of a current cap and the waitlist extends to 2025. Carlson says they are asking the PUC to remove the cap. “When it comes to these storage programs, we want to deliver what our customers want -- which is this program,” she said.

T.J. Poor with the Vermont Department of Public Service, says the cap was part of an initial effort to test the program and that the PUC should be lifting it in the coming weeks. “We can make sure that non-participating customers are not being disadvantaged by the pilot, ensure that it’s cost-effective in general and make sure it furthers state energy policy,” Poor said. He said the department is generally supportive of the deployment of cost-effective storage regardless of the utility. “This is a competitive market and so we want to ensure there is fair competition in the market.”

Schwartz hopes they do lift the cap. Her house is covered but she would like her neighbors to benefit from backup power through future storms. “We’re seeing more issues with weather volatility and stuff like that. I have a little bit more of peace of mind,” she said.

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