• Utilities
  • Residential Energy Storage
  • Battery Storage
  • Climate Change
  • Solar Plus Storage

The Importance of Residential Energy Storage to Home Healthcare

Ricardo Rodriguez
Oct 13, 2020

Guidehouse Insights

The demand for home healthcare is set to increase sharply as the US population ages and more Americans elect to receive care at home as a result of the pandemic. Simultaneously, millions of Americans lose electrical service each year due to weather-related disruptions like the ongoing outages in California, which severely complicates home healthcare demands. In light of these trends, utility resiliency programs are increasingly deploying residential solar plus storage solutions to provide safe and reliable backup power to customers. Despite innovative program designs and available government funding, identifying customers who meet the requirements for the highest incentives remains a challenge for program administrators.

Residential Battery Storage versus Traditional Generators

Although portable generators are widely accepted as a standard technology for residential backup power, research shows that a typical generator’s exhaust contains more than 40 toxic air contaminants, including a variety of carcinogenic compounds. In addition, improper use of the technology can have catastrophic effects. In early September 2020, more deaths associated with Hurricane Laura (eight of the 15) were caused by the improper use of portable generators than the storm itself. Fortunately, the advent of residential battery storage demonstrates that portable generators are no longer a necessary evil.

Battery storage is a safe and reliable emergency power resource. When combined with solar PV, it can provide a longer duration of backup power than storage alone. In Vermont, Green Mountain Power’s (GMP’s) residential energy storage programs, Bring Your Own Device and Tesla Powerwall, have already provided more than 16,000 hours of backup power to customers in 2020. Given that Vermont is expected to experience more severe weather due to climate change and residents are more likely to be at home due to the pandemic, residential battery storage is proving its value and reducing energy costs for all GMP customers by nearly $3 million.

Residential Energy Storage Programs Face Challenges

While several state and utility programs that subsidize the upfront cost of residential energy storage systems exist across the country, identifying qualifying customers is difficult for program administrators and battery storage integrators. For instance, in 2019, the California Public Utilities Commission authorized funding of more than $1 billion through 2024 for its Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP). This funding includes prioritization of communities living in high fire threat areas, communities that have experienced two or more utility Public Safety Power Shutoff events, as well as low income and medically vulnerable customers. Despite the available funds, privacy constraints have limited the ability of California utilities and battery storage integrators to zero-in on low income or medical baseline customers.

Sunrun and GRID Alternatives Partnership Offers a Model Solution

Sunrun, a leading solar plus storage integrator, recently expanded its partnership with GRID Alternatives, a nonprofit organization that brings the benefits of solar technology to communities that would not otherwise have access. Sunrun and GRID Alternatives can provide residential battery storage systems to low income customers free of charge. Funded through California’s SGIP equity resiliency budget, Sunrun will provide the battery systems and integration services while GRID Alternatives will work with community-based organizations to better identify and reach out to potential customers. As extreme weather persists and medically vulnerable populations increasingly choose home healthcare options, partnerships like the one between Sunrun and GRID Alternatives will likely grow while reliance on residential battery storage for resilient backup power mounts.