Power companies in New England tapping residential batteries to reduce peak demand

REW_GMPTeslaTesla Powerwall in a home. Credit: Tesla

Brian Eckhouse, Bloomberg

Here’s the latest wrinkle in the battery boom: National Grid Plc is paying consumers to tap electricity from their power-storage systems.

The utility has about 40 customers in the program now in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, and said expanding it to include Tesla Inc.’s Powerwall users may boost participation before the typical summertime peak in power consumption. National Grid is targeting 280 customers across the two states by early next month.

The program may help the utility reduce capital costs by letting it access stored power from customers of Sunrun Inc. and other providers during periods of high demand. A single Tesla Powerwall battery in Rhode Island could earn as much as $1,000 a year, according to a spokesman for the automaker.

“By using this technology at peak periods, we reduce our electric loads when power is most expensive,” said John Isberg, a vice president at National Grid. “This should provide environmental benefits and reduce infrastructure-investment costs.”

Utilities in the Northeast have been among the early movers in incorporating solar and battery-storage systems into power grids. New England’s grid operator in February approved the addition of 145 megawatts of solar capacity, including some from Sunrun paired with batteries. And in Vermont, utility Green Mountain Power introduced a program this year to let 250 customers get two Tesla Powerwall batteries for $30 a month.

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National Grid’s program comes as costs for batteries have plunged, making storage systems a popular complement to rooftop solar. Outages triggered by extreme weather and wildfires across the country have also boosted demand for batteries.

“We’re just getting to the point where they can provide these services cost effectively,” said Paul Wassink, a senior engineer at National Grid.

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