June 19, 2015

Shining a Light on Emerging Resilient Power Movement

By Samantha Donalds

A new, first-of-its-kind report from Clean Energy Group tells the story of the early years of the resilient power movement – and as the movement spreads beyond the Northeast, states in other regions should be taking notice

In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy devastated the Northeast United States, disrupting electric service to more than eight million people in 17 states. As traditional diesel-powered backup generators failed, critical facilities such as hospitals, first responders and public shelters, as well as vulnerable populations – the elderly, disabled and those in low-income neighborhoods – were severely impacted by the extended and widespread power outages.  In some communities, the blackouts lasted for weeks.

In a rare example of a positive outcome from a natural disaster, several of the states hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy took action, using new policies and initiatives to promote the deployment of resilient power technologies.  Resilient power uses clean energy systems, like solar PV combined with energy storage, to provide uninterrupted electricity to critical facilities during grid outages.  As a bonus, resilient power systems can be configured to reduce electricity costs and provide valuable grid services year-round.

At this writing, most active state resilient power programs are concentrated in the Northeast. Massachusetts, New Jersey, Connecticut, New York, Maryland, Vermont, and a few other states have collectively committed more than $400 million to create resilient power programs, incentives and funding institutions. These programs have largely been funded by system benefit charges, alternative compliance payments from utilities, and supportive federal solicitations and disaster relief funds.

Because of these state programs, 40 municipalities in the Northeast now have resilient power projects underway, which will support more than 90 critical facilities, at a likely capital cost of several hundred million dollars. In other words, larger resiliency goals have now been translated into real, on-the-ground community projects protecting communities with local, reliable, clean electric power that won’t fail when the next storm knocks out the electric grid.

The resilient power movement represents a promising new path for clean energy deployment across the country. These early state efforts demonstrate that, when installed in combination and properly designed, renewables and energy storage technologies offer not only environmental and economic benefits, but can also save lives and protect vulnerable populations.

The new report by Clean Energy Group, What States Should Do: A Guide to Resilient Power Programs and Policy, profiles these leading state resilient power programs, and provides recommendations for efforts in other parts of the country. The report is intended to help states establish new policies and support new markets to advance clean resilient power nationwide. You can read the full report here. An executive summary for policymakers is available here. Clean Energy Group will be hosting a webinar on this report in July.

Photo Credit

Dan Nguyen via Flickr

Associated CEG Initiative(s)

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