Solar is Changing the World and These States are On Board
Electricity has been produced and sent to your home in almost exactly the same way for over a century. For the most part, electricity is produced at a power plant by burning coal or natural gas, then sent over wires to your home. Altogether, the system of power plants, wires and homes and businesses is called a “grid” and right now it’s a pretty inefficient system that produces a lot of waste and quite a bit of pollution.
But that’s changing.
Electricity grids are complex systems managed by regional system operators and public utility commissions. Historically, they’ve been one-way systems: power is produced at power plants and sent through transmission wires to homes and businesses. The main goal is to make sure that enough electricity is available across the entire grid to meet fluctuating demand.
Increasingly, grids are becoming two-way systems, where electricity is produced not only at power plants, but at homes and businesses as well. Driving this change to a two-way system is what’s called distributed energy resources (DERs), like rooftop solar, batteries and smart appliances. The goal is still to meet electricity demand, but to do it efficiently using new technologies.
After all, it doesn’t make sense to get your power from a plant that may be 100 miles away, when your neighbor’s solar system is 100 feet away and produces more power than they need at any given moment.
And it’s not just rooftop solar driving this change. Smart thermostats, appliances, energy monitoring and batteries are making it possible to control and understand energy consumption like never before.
To keep up with and take advantage of the technological changes, a handful of states are changing how they utilize the grid. Here are some of the more exciting initiatives taking place in the U.S.
New York: REVing Up
New York is rethinking their energy system through an initiative called Reforming the Energy Vision (REV). REV’s goals are to save customers money, improve grid reliability, promote local power generation, and bring new products and services to customers.
One way REV is accomplishing its goals is by changing the incentives for utilities. Instead of spending hundreds of millions of dollars on new projects, utilities are encouraged and paid to lower customer energy use, promote on-site energy production (like rooftop solar) and employ grid management technology. In just one example of REV at work, a large utility was able to save $1 billion on building an energy substation, while still meeting energy demand. Ultimately, that’s $1 billion customers across New York won’t have to pay.
California: Solar Nixes 13 Expensive Projects
It’s no surprise that California is the top-ranking state when it comes to solar power. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses are using solar panels to produce their own clean, renewable power. But, solar doesn’t just provide environmental benefits. Thirteen planned projects for building or improving transmission lines (that is, wires) have been cancelled because solar is now meeting electricity demand in the areas where the projects would have gone. The savings to customers? $192 million.
Minnesota: e21 and the Modern Grid
You probably expect New York and California to be leading the way on adopting new technologies. But, Minnesota’s not sitting by either. With an initiative called e21, the state is looking at modernizing its grid to adapt to the change in how we power our homes. The goal of e21 is to make utilities more customer-centric. That’s a fancy way of saying that the grid is becoming a two-way system and customers (like you) should be treated fairly. e21 is a realization that the future of energy production and consumption will include DERs, like solar, and customers will become more active participants on the grid.
You Don’t Need to Wait for Change
Exciting changes are underway as states increasingly recognize the need to modernize how we treat energy production. Our grids need to be smarter and our resources need to be managed more effectively. Change can be challenging. But as New York and California have already seen, change can be rewarding, too.
Luckily for you, you don’t need to wait for your state to realize change is coming. You can start being a part of the energy future, today. By signing up for solar as a service you can save money and take more control over electric costs. It’s time to start having a say in how your home’s power is produced.