How Homeowners and Businesses Can Stabilize Georgia’s Power Grid while Saving Money
Georgia’s power grid is becoming stressed. That stress is affecting homeowners and businesses who need reliable power at reasonable prices. When more is demanded from the grid than it can provide, livelihoods and even basic survival are at risk. The Texas power disaster of early 2021 showed how bad it can get when the electrical grid fails across a widespread area for a prolonged period.
But extreme weather events aren’t unique to Texas. In just the last few years, Georgia has seen at least 50 such events, including major hurricanes like Irma and Michael, and an ice storm. We also have hot and humid summers that tax the power grid to provide for all that air conditioning. Could what happened in Texas happen in Georgia?
This goes much further than just the weather.
The Power Grid Is at Risk
Demand for power is outstripping the ability of many utilities to reliably meet it. This is why we see more and more blackouts every year. Much of the grid’s infrastructure is aging and in need of repair or replacement.
As you’re about to see, ratepayers and the utility can both do something to extend the capabilities of the power grid.
What was the power grid designed to do? It generates power, transmits it over lines and circuits, distributes it, and monitors it. Power gets generated from nuclear plants, coal and natural gas plants, renewables like solar energy, as well as other sources. Because of age, some power plants have been taken offline, requiring other generating stations to pick up the slack. When they aren’t able to do that, it can lead to blackouts and brownouts.
During a blackout, what do we lose?
We lose the ability to easily cook our food. We lose heat in winter, and cool air in summer. We lose access to the internet, and all the commerce and business that depends on it. We lose the use of our smartphones and all the digital services we access through them. We lose email. We lose texting. We lose social media. We lose the ability to charge electric cars.
Blackouts cause both immediate and long-term damage. The longer they last, the worse the damage across all fronts. To prevent blackouts, utilities sometimes turn on additional power generating resources. Other times they buy excess power from other regions. But what if those regions are also facing surges in demand? What if the extra assets are already producing and more is needed?
We are more electricity-dependent today than even twenty years ago. Back then, there was no ‘cloud’ for data storage. Most people still used landlines. Phones were not dependent on the power grid. Now they are.
The power grid needs to be modernized. Some of this work is already happening, but it’s expensive, and ratepayers will end up footing most of the bill.
Responding to an Aging Power Grid
Utilities like Georgia Power know what’s at stake. But do you?
We’re going to briefly review how Georgia Power is trying to modernize the power grid. But we’re also going to see what homeowners and businesses like you can do to help strengthen the grid, while also liberating yourself from its vulnerabilities and rising costs.
How Georgia Power Is Working to Modernize the Power Grid
First, they are raising your rates. Rates went up by about $6 per month for the average ratepayer in 2020, and went up another 2.5% in 2021, with a 5% increase planned for 2022.
That’s some serious cash. Where is it all going? Among other things, Georgia Power is working on:
- Expanding the infrastructure for transmission and distribution of power
- Strengthening the reliability and the resiliency of the power grid by adding capacity and the ability to reroute power in an outage
- Replacing aging equipment
- Deploying automation to reduce power outage time
- Rebuilding 380 substations, 800 circuits, and 1000 miles of wiring
- Moving some power lines underground or making them easier to access
Let’s be clear – these are all good investments that will help modernize our electric grid. Everyone will be better off with these improvements. We’ll have a more stable and reliable grid, and fewer people should experience outages. And those outages that do happen won’t last as long. In theory.
But the other side of this is, Georgia Power will be raking in the profits, hitting 12% in the coming years, which has riled up a few people in the state government.
So, will your power grid be more reliable in the coming years? In theory, yes, but because of continuous increases in demand fueled by technology, population growth, and extreme weather events, there’s no guarantee of that.
Will you pay more for your electricity? Yes. A lot more. Over $100 more per year for the typical homeowner, and more for large businesses. And that’s just in the next couple years.
How Georgia Homeowners and Businesses Can Take Ownership of the Power Grid
Solar energy is increasingly being recognized for the influential role it can play in stabilizing the power grid and restoring price sanity for homeowners and businesses.
There are two ways you can use solar to achieve these results:
- Keep your own power running no matter what
- Stabilize the grid by reducing demand during peak usage situations
Let’s look at both of these in more detail.
Reliable Personal Power for Yourself
First, on a personal level, you can own your power by installing your own solar energy system and coupling it with modernized battery storage. This exact setup allowed some people in Texas to make it through the terrible power outage relatively unscathed. Here’s a story of a Texas homeowner who never lost power throughout the entire disaster.
Because he had solar panels and battery storage, he was able to keep his power and lights on. Eventually, neighbors and family members started coming over to ride out the cold.
Any homeowner or business can secure their power using this same approach, and it’s not as costly as you might think. In fact, according to the same article, large scale solar batteries have dropped in price by over 70% in the last ten years.
Stabilizing the Grid for Everyone Else
Solar power can also help stabilize the rest of the power grid, which helps all the other customers when demand soars. When some customers are generating their own power with solar, that means the grid doesn’t need to generate or transmit as much power to serve all the other customers.
With solar battery storage, this benefit is amplified, because even when the sun goes down, the homes and businesses with solar storage are continuing to use their own power and therefore don’t require resources from the overtaxed grid.
Farther on the horizon, the potential for expanding grid stabilization through solar battery storage-equipped homes and businesses is starting to gain attention.
Some utilities in Vermont, Oregon, and Colorado have already begun exploring the idea of getting permission from customers who have battery storage to make their power available to the grid in times of heightened demand. The utility would of course pay the homeowners for their power.
With all this energy stored up and accessible from thousands of individual locations, it adds up to a large amount of power – sometimes enough to stave off blackouts, depending on the severity. But only if the utility can access it when those extreme scenarios show up.
According to a report from the National Conference on State Legislatures, distributed energy generation such as solar battery storage “can play a role in reducing system costs by avoiding or delaying the construction of large power plants, substations, or transmission lines.”
Think about that.
If enough homeowners and businesses had solar energy plus battery storage, this report is suggesting that utilities might not need to build or maintain as much infrastructure as they’re having to do now.
Now, that’s obviously a long-term vision. But consider how much money you’re going to be paying for all the infrastructure improvements that Georgia Power will be working on the next few years. Again – all those improvements are sound and reasonable ideas.
But what if they didn’t need to spend so much money on this, because so many customers were now generating their own power and storing it for emergencies and nighttime usage?
Stabilize YOUR Power Grid and Control Your Rates
If you want to escape the ever-increasing rates of your electric bills, whether you have Georgia Power or a different utility, solar energy – with or without battery storage – offers the single best pathway to free power.
Once your system has paid for itself, which for our customers typically happens within 5-10 years (sometimes sooner, especially for farm and rural businesses), you will essentially be getting free power for years. You’ll be liberated from rate increases. With battery storage, you’ll also have the security of knowing your power will stay on even when the rest of the grid goes out.
But more than that, you’ll also be helping everyone else on the grid. You will be stabilizing the grid by reducing demand. And someday, maybe you’ll even be able to sell stored energy back to the grid during times of stress, and help prevent blackouts!