Oct 10, 2019

PG&E's California blackouts make the case for home energy generation

Person sitting in a California restaurant lit by candlelight during one of PG&E's shut-offs. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP via Getty Images

One side effect of California utility PG&E shutting off power to roughly 2 million people to deter wildfires: it's effectively a free ad for distributed generation options.

Why it matters: Distributed energy is an important part of creating more resilient power systems at a time when climate change is putting more stress on grids.

  • Greentech Media points out that this isn't lost on California regulators, who "have been looking to distributed energy resources as part of the solution to the state's wildfire-power grid challenge."

Driving the news: The Twitter feed of Sunrun, the country's top residential solar provider is using the blackout to market its products.

  • "#Blackouts are happening now all across #California. Take back control of your home's #energy with Sunrun's Brightbox #solar #battery service and stay powered through the next #outage."
  • It links to a page where customers can explore the purchase of their solar and battery systems. Sunrun even has a separate page about the PG&E shut-offs that notes wildfires are now year-round events in California.

The big picture: They're not the only distributed energy provider that stands to gain.

  • "Suppliers of backup, diesel-fired generators, solar panels, batteries and fuel cells alike see a sales opportunity in the massive power shutoffs rolling out across the San Francisco Bay Area," Bloomberg reports.
  • Wood Mackenzie Power & Renewables' analyst Ravi Manghani told Greentech that this week's blackouts mean "the market should see an uptick in battery storage sales."

What they're saying: A Fast Company story last night on the PG&E outages quotes Christopher Burgess of the nonprofit Rocky Mountain Institute making the case for "community microgrids" that combine solar and batteries.

  • “I could definitely see a future where the transmission lines are just so long and so problematic, and it gets more and more dry due to climate change, and those things just become so much of a vulnerability that it’s actually better just to ‘island off’ certain communities,” he said.

Go deeper: Airports embrace renewable energy to cut air travel emissions

Go deeper

California power cuts could drive sales of gas-powered generators

Photo: Michele Eve Sandberg/AFP/Getty Images

The risk of wildfires in California prompted what may be the largest deliberate power cut in U.S. history. The growing frequency of such precautions could incentivize residential and commercial customers to turn to on-site power generation.

Why it matters: Such a shift could mean a boon for solar energy systems, but also a comeback for gas-powered generators in areas bearing the brunt of extreme dry weather exacerbated by climate change.

Go deeperArrowOct 29, 2019

Solar power systems spike in homes, businesses and industrial plants

Reproduced from IEA’s Renewables 2019 report; Chart: Axios Visuals

IEA's new report sees rapid growth of solar power systems located at homes, businesses and industrial plants. They forecast this distributed capacity reaching 530 GW in five years.

The intrigue: Rooftop solar at homes isn't the main driver. "Contrary to conventional wisdom, distributed [photovoltaic] growth is dominated by commercial and industrial applications rather than residential," IEA notes.

Go deeperArrowOct 21, 2019

PG&E returns power to most California customers, but thousands remain in the dark

Restaurant owners use candles and a flashlight in Sonoma, California, Oct. 9. Photo: Brittany Hosea-Small/AFP via Getty Images

PG&E said Thursday it restored power to nearly 328,255 customers since the Oct. 29 weather "all clear" was given for areas in northern and central California, though 36,745 customers remain without power.

The big picture: PG&E faces an investigation by the California Public Utilities Commission over its series of power shutoffs, which have affected millions and aimed to prevent the spread of wildfires during high-wind periods and dry spells. There are currently 15 fires spreading throughout California, per the Los Angeles Times.

Go deeperArrowOct 31, 2019