Health and Energy Security

Power Outages Pose A Threat to Public Health and Safety

For medically vulnerable people, even short power outages can be a matter of life or death. During extended outages, entire communities can be left without power for basic health care services.

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Over 2.5 million people in the United States rely on electricity to power critical medical equipment in their homes. This medically vulnerable population is at risk of being left without access to critical medical equipment in the event of a power outage. As natural disasters and severe weather continue to leave millions in the dark, and utility conducted preventative outages become more commonplace, those reliant on electricity-dependent medical equipment to live independently face increasing uncertainty as to how they’ll power their medical equipment when the lights go out.

Battery storage, especially when paired with solar PV (solar+storage), can help mitigate this risk by providing reliable residential backup power in the event of an outage, allowing medically vulnerable residents to shelter-in-place or safely wait for evacuation in their own home. In addition to providing backup power, solar+storage can also deliver economic benefits through utility bill cost savings and revenue generation. Diesel generators, by comparison, do not provide any economic benefits, are prone to failure, difficult to operate, and limited by fuel storage and availability during a disaster.

Resilient power can also help critical facilities, such as schools, hospitals, and nursing homes, provide community services through an outage. Without access to in-home emergency power, electricity-dependent residents will turn to these facilities when disaster strikes, and many will require access to outlets to charge their medical equipment.

A first step in addressing this emerging public health crisis, Clean Energy Group and Meridian Institute published a white paper examining the role of resilient power to mitigate the impacts of power outages on electricity-dependent households and provided recommendations on how to increase access to resilient power technologies for low-income, medically vulnerable populations: Home Health Care in the Dark: Why Climate, Wildfires and Other Risks Call for New Resilient Energy Storage Solutions to Protect Medically Vulnerable Households From Power Outages.

Clean Energy Group’s work at the intersection of health care and energy storage aims to:

  • Prevent or minimize deaths and public health crises caused by power outages by creating models for clean, resilient power systems in vulnerable homes and critical health facilities such as hospitals, senior centers, and other facilities serving those in need
  • Better identify medically vulnerable populations by building better data
  • Develop and advance clean energy strategies and policies specific to low-income, home health and home care patients
  • Build a diverse coalition of health and energy leaders, industry experts, academics, and community organizations to advocate for resilient power in critical medical facilities and home care settings
  • Assist in developing markets for battery storage systems that meet the specific needs of the home health and home care community;
  • Integrate equity concerns into existing public health and emergency management policies
  • Support disaster response efforts through reliable onsite renewable energy generation and storage

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