In the wake of massive hurricanes that caused over $200 billion in damages in Houston, Florida, and Puerto Rico, it’s time to plan for a stronger, more energy resilient system. As these weather patterns continue to intensify, consider this: seven of the top ten most damaging hurricanes in U.S. history have occurred since 2005 — not including Irma and Harvey.
The breakdown of current energy systems.
Currently, energy production and delivery systems mainly rely on a hub-and-spoke model. Large coal and nuclear-fired power plants generate and transfer electricity over hundreds and thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines (wires) to where we — the consumer — use it. This opens up thousands of points of vulnerability in the system. With more — and more intense — storm patterns likely to occur, the smart solution is to construct a new system for a new threat.
What’s the solution?
Build for the future, not the past. Among other things:
- Allow distributed generation — like rooftop and community solar projects — to communicate and sell to each other during emergencies.
- Incentivize storage of electricity — at multiple points — at both the T&D levels, employing greater battery technology and pricing that storage correctly so that all value streams can be monetized.
- Allow solar-capable homes to aggregate their resources and bid into wholesale power markets, in both day-ahead and real-time markets.
- Reduce installation barriers and provide greater incentives for homeowners, while providing valuable services to the distribution grid and the incumbent utility providers.
Does solar help?
Residential solar is not the only answer - but it is a major part of the answer, as is combining those distributed resources with storage capacity. Like New York did after Superstorm Sandy in 2012, look at ways to properly value distributed generation resources — like wind and solar — and encourage greater choice for consumers in both the types of energy they consume — wind, solar, coal, nuclear, natural gas — and the way in which they consume it.
Pricing signals are the key feature here to achieving these goals and meeting the demands of the market for both cleaner and more resilient energy sources. Protecting the environment while improving system resiliency is a win-win for all.
Build for tomorrow, not yesterday.
Going through the motions of build-destroy-rebuild has run its course. It’s time we thought about planning and constructing the system of tomorrow, not reconstructing the grid of yesterday. A more diversified resource mix — with more clean energy and technology integration and less reliance on the old hub-and-spoke model — will increase system resiliency, decrease the rebuilding process of thousands of miles of transmission lines (which are too costly to be buried), and set off a new wave of innovation as the U.S. leads the world in clean energy output.