California’s Dominating Performance in the Behind-The-Meter Energy Storage Market

by Anna Gretz
September 7, 2017
Home Battery

California has been breaking so many records in the solar and energy storage sectors lately, it’s almost getting boring… almost.

When the new solar numbers of 2016 came out, the public finally got a visual of the skyrocketing growth of solar power. At the end of 2015, the industry celebrated a record-breaking year, with 7,500 megawatts (MW) of solar installed nation wide. Then, 2016 saw an unprecedented 95% increase in solar photovoltaic installations, topping out at 14,626 MW. Solar installations had risen across every category, including residential, non-residential, and especially utilities. This wasn’t the end of the good news, though. Solar also accounted for almost 40 percent of new electrical capacity additions across ALL fuel types, earning it the top spot in 2016 for the first time, ever.

Solar power, and with it, renewable energy sources everywhere, enjoyed a well-deserved minute in the spotlight, as the country finally stopped to take notice of the impressive and unprecedented presence of solar in the United States.

Now, energy storage enters the stage.

GTM Research and the Energy Storage Association recently released the latest edition of the U.S. Energy Storage Monitor, and they shared some pretty awesome news: this most recent quarter (Q2 of 2017) logged the most behind-the-meter energy storage systems in a single quarter… ever.

When solar customers use rooftop or on-property solar to power their household, it’s refered to as “behind the meter” solar usage. Just as solar can operate behind the meter, energy storage installations can also operate on-site, charging and discharging locally to provide both residential and commercial customers with all the electricity they need. Behind-the-meter energy storage can still communicate and interact with the power grid on a whole, as is the case with many of the installations included in the latest second-quarter numbers.

Which states lead the charge when it came to residential energy storage growth? The answer probably won’t surprise you.

California came out on top, per usual, followed by Hawaii.

Part of the reason why California and Hawaii continue to see huge success in the energy storage sector is because of the great incentive programs offered by each state. The majority of Hawaii’s second-quarter deployments came from their Customer Self-Supply program, while California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program (SGIP) has encouraged growth as well.

“California held the lead in behind-the-meter deployments as the Self-Generation Incentive Program queue continues to clear,” said Brett Simon, an energy storage analyst at GTM Research (Simon is also one of the major authors of the U.S. Energy Storage Monitor report.)

“Toward the end of this year, we expect to see more SGIP-related deployment activity as the first deployments from the modified program, which opened in May, start to be interconnected. Furthermore, we expect to see greater growth from California’s residential segment in the next few years given the residential carve-out under the latest version of SGIP and changes made to time-of-use rates for solar customers.” In other words, the growth we’re seeing in the residential energy storage market isn’t about to stop anytime soon.

Wondering how you can become one of the many Californians adding a tally-mark to the record-breaking numbers, and installing their own energy storage systems? It’s easier than you think, and with Swell, it’s downright effortless.

California’s SGIP, which happens to be the longest running and most successful program of its kind in the country, straight-up pays households to create their own energy-secure fortress by installing and energy storage system on-site. We’re not talking about chump change, either. The SGIP pays energy storage users thousands of dollars to enjoy backup power and blackout protection… not to mention the money they save on their lower (or even non-existent) electricity bills.

The SGIP was initially put into place as a program to reduce peak-load demand in California. Basically, the grid wasn’t able to handle the electricity needed by Californians during the hours they needed it the most, usually around 5:30 pm. To help ease the burden, the SGIP offered to pay consumers to generate their own energy, so the grid didn’t have to provide quite as much. No one wanted to re-live the events of 2001.

Let us refresh your memory: 2001 was the date of the California electricity crisis (also known as the Western U.S. Energy Crisis), which resulted in blackouts for 1.5 million customers in the middle of March. The crisis was so bad, the governor didn’t end the state of emergency until November 13 of 2003. The California electricity crisis exposed the vulnerability of the power grid, motivating California and its occupants to ease their dependence on the grid, and look for more secure energy sources.

Despite these efforts, the power grid remains unstable. Ted Koppel’s recent book, Lights Out, illuminated the growing threat of a disabled power grid. Though our country’s utilities are an invaluable resource, the systems still rely on 1970s era technology. Updating utility systems means interrupting service, so it’s rarely done. Our current power infrastructure simply wasn’t designed to stand up to modern threats. When it was originally designed, the concept of web hacking simply wasn’t there.

The electrical grid is particularly weak because its network is spread out over many installations that are miles apart. An infrastructure like that is difficult to protect. Targeting the power grid is also appealing because of the domino effect that disabling the grid would have on our country. In basic terms, electricity keeps all our other systems running. Take down this single system, and the rest will follow. We’ve backed ourselves into a situation where the technology we possess to detect and monitor infiltration of our power grid depends on the grid itself. Not ideal, right?

Fortunately, you don’t have to be at the mercy of a vulnerable grid. The weakness of the grid is the reason California’s offering the SGIP in the first place. Energy storage changes the entire conversation about grid vulnerability. We don’t have to talk about prolonged power outages as a impending probability, but a situation that can be avoided altogether. Home batteries put the power back into the hands of the consumer, and back into the appliances and systems we need to sustain our lives.

Households equipped with solar panels and energy storage in the form of home batteries will be completely protected from any utility company mishap, whether it be on a large or small scale. Home batteries allow households to power their own essential appliances like refrigerators, water pumps, and heating/cooling devices with stored electricity collected from renewable energy sources like solar panels. The consistency and reliability of the sun puts the fragile power grid to shame.

It’s time to make your house awesome… and get paid to do it. The SGIP will pay you to add an energy storage system to your home. If you have solar panels (or even if you don’t), getting a home battery just makes sense, even without the SGIP’s check coming in the mail. The price of electricity from the grid continues to rise, while prices of home batteries, along with solar photovoltaics, are falling fast as the technology becomes more and more popular. If you’re already generating energy during the day, get a home battery to save it for the evening, when you need it the most. If you live in California, the SGIP will pay you for something you already want -- lower-cost, clean energy, independence from the grid, and blackout protection.

Join California’s record-breaking behind-the-meter revolution. Have questions? Hit up a Swell representative--we love talking nerdy about energy storage.