New Hampshire regulators approved a pilot program to install up to 200 home batteries to cut electricity costs and help the local utility manage peak load events on the hottest summer days.
The program, approved January 17 by the Public Utilities Commission, allows Liberty Utilities to partly manage the batteries when load forecasts predict high demand, while providing customers with the opportunity to take advantage of time-of-use rates.
The project is the first in the United States to combine home batteries with time-of-use rates. If Phase 1 of the program is successful, Liberty will be allowed to install up to 300 additional batteries and third-party contractors could install up to 500 more batteries in a Phase 2 that permits customers to “bring your own device.”
“We are very excited to start this program,” said Susan Fleck, President, Liberty Utilities – NH, said in a statement. “The negotiations with all interested parties were incredibly valuable. We think the program will be a big success.”
The company plans to start implementation of Phase 1 in the next few months. If Liberty can show customers gained savings in a cost-benefit analysis and the utility predicted peak load events with 75 percent accuracy, Phase 2 would kick in. That is expected in about 18 months.
Home batteries to reduce demand, provide backup
The home batteries will help Liberty Utilities reduce its overall demand for electricity during peaks and serve as back-up power for customers during a power outage.
Liberty first proposed the program in December 2017. A year of negotiations culminated in November with a proposed settlement agreement with numerous stakeholders. The order approving it left it virtually intact.
Missing from the settlement were third party companies that wanted to participate with direct contact with customers in Phase 1. However, they informally endorsed the concept, knowing they would be allowed to sell home batteries directly to customers in Phase 2, provided the utility reaches certain benchmarks.
The PUC imposed three conditions on the settlement that mostly require updates and fixes to the overall program and do not change the overall thrust of the program. The conditions require that the utility perform more detailed analysis of certain questions related to cost estimates, TOU rate design and potential cybersecurity risks.
The order said that the conditions “are intended to provide additional protection for Liberty’s customers in terms of the rates they will be required to pay and the reliability of electric service they will receive.”
The commission will monitor any cost increases that could impact the results of the cost-benefit analysis, which Liberty has agreed to do. The company and its consultants will determine future TOU rates at the times of periodic rate changes.
“The company does not have a date at this time but is working to provide the PUC with the requested information,” said Heather Tebbetts, Liberty Utilities, manager of rates and regulatory affairs.
The commission reiterated its requirement that customer education efforts need to be thorough and detailed to inform the public of a new initiative that has several unfamiliar components.
New Hampshire commission to issue RFI
The PUC is concurrently moving forward with the next steps in implementing the order. The commission is issuing a request for information from companies that may be qualified vendors to aggregate 2.5 megawatts of demand.
“It was pretty exciting that the commission adopted the settlement pretty much intact,” said Chris Rauscher, director of policy and storage market strategy at solar and storage developer Sunrun. The solar and storage company did not sign off on the settlement, but it did not oppose it either. It is already gearing up for participation in Phase 2 as a provider under the BYOD model.
“The work starts today,” he said.
Liberty Utilities in November reached an agreement with the staff at the PUC, the state’s Consumer Advocate, New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, Conservation Law Foundation, Acadia Center and the City of Lebanon for a home battery storage pilot program (DE-17-189).
Customer sign-ups in 1stQ 2019
In Phase 1 of the energy storage pilot program, the utility will have a 12-month period to show it can accurately manage system peaks and home batteries both operationally and with no added costs for the homeowners. Customer sign-ups are expected to be completed in the first quarter of this year.
Liberty will introduce Mid-Peak, Critical-Peak and Off-Peak pricing. On non-holiday weekdays, the critical peak period runs from 3:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m., the mid-peak period runs from 8:00 a.m. through 3:00 p.m., and the off-peak period runs from 8:00 p.m. through 8:00 a.m.
Batteries will be charged overnight during Off-Peak times, then that power will be utilized during Critical-Peak times during the day. The Off-Peak rate is expected to be a savings of over 10 cents/kWh during the summer months compared to regular residential rates.
The agreement allows an opportunity for battery aggregators to participate through a competitive bid process to provide an additional 2.5 megawatts of battery capacity.
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