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Energy Storage Can Serve the Most Vulnerable During Power Outages
February 2021, snow storms caused rolling blackouts in Texas that left over 4 million people without power. Due to the winter storms, energy demand increased significantly, causing grid blackouts and leaving many to struggle in cold homes. Residents had to evacuate to warming centers or the homes of those still with power. Some were even left without potable water. Tragically, the freezing temperatures and power outages resulted in casualties due to causes of hypothermia and carbon monoxide poisoning.
The importance of energy storage has become a topic of discussion as industry leaders try to understand what the best route for resiliency is for households during outages. Backup power can be convenient for continuing day-to-day activities, but it also can be life-saving when residents depend on it to guard against the elements or power medical equipment.
Who Suffers Most During Grid Outages?
Whether due to an overload in demand due to extreme heat or cold, or a safety precaution during a natural disaster, planned and unplanned blackouts often take the greatest toll on the most vulnerable of communities. Vulnerable community members are those who do not have adequate resources to find alternate sources of power. This could include elderly residents and those with limited mobility. Disproportionately, it also includes low income residents and people of color.
There is an increased risk for in-home patients that rely on medical equipment. Residents receiving at-home care are more likely to be older and have limited mobility. These factors increase the health and safety risks of residents during power outages. It’s also likely that, in the case of an outage, residents would need to relocate to a facility that can provide power for their immediate care and medical equipment. An upcoming report by Guidehouse Insights anticipates that a growing aging population combined with a trending preference for non-institutional care will create a larger global market for at-home care. If this is the case, there may also be an increased need to address energy security and resiliency for the residential sector.
How Can Energy Storage Become More Accessible to Residents with At-Home Care?
Increased energy resiliency in the home is critical to the well-being of at-home patients, as life-saving equipment requires uninterrupted power. Residential at-home patients seeking backup power and increased resiliency for the home may also require more funding assistance than the typical energy storage customer. Healthcare insurers and Medicare providers should create more flexible options for patients that may be put at an increased risk during a power outage. As part of standard equipment coverage, battery storage could also be categorized as durable medical equipment if it contributes to power other life-saving equipment, such as a ventilator or refrigerator for medicine. This need will only grow in importance with more frequent power outages due to extreme weather events.
More research and data is needed to strengthen knowledge of the residential energy storage market for healthcare. This ranges from understanding the effect on at-home patients during outages to tracking the addressable market of residential energy storage that includes medical and healthcare use cases. More precise data points on power requirements of medical equipment for the home may help to guide this research. Precise data and continued pilot programs that allow low income at-home patients to participate should increase overall understanding of the energy storage for at-home care market.