A Utility Willing to Cannibalize Revenues for Residential Microgrids

Dec. 7, 2015
Oshawa Power & Utilities, located in Ontario, is willing to cannibalize its own revenues to stay relevant — and offer customers residential microgrids.

Oshawa Power & Utilities, located in Ontario, is willing to cannibalize its own revenues to stay relevant — and offer customers residential microgrids.

The small utility (55,000 electric customers) has already installed its first solar-plus-storage system from Tabuchi Electric for a customer, and is working on a pilot of 30 homes. Oshawa Power CEO Atul Mahajan says that’s just a first step. In the long run, he wants to take a “maverick approach,” and aggregate residential utility customers, then provide electricity through nanogrids.

“This is very disruptive to our business model,” says Mahajan. “The more we sell these, the less money utilities will make. But the technology enables us to serve the customer better.”

“…the technology enables us to serve the customer better.”

If the utility doesn’t offer this option, it’s likely the customers will go out and buy the systems themselves, he says.

“Customers care about reliability and cost, and some customers really care about the environment,” he says. Microgrids will provide reliability during extreme weather events and, as the cost of solar power continues to drop, will allow customers to have less expensive power, he says.

“I would partner with any technology provider to market this because we want to be aggressive. Nothing stops me from selling this system in any service area with my utility knowledge,” says Mahajan.

The product is is a 5.5 kW solar system with a 10-kWh battery. It includes a hybrid inverter that manages the battery and the solar at the same time, says Daniel Hill, director of sales and marketing for Tabuchi.

The product is enclosed in one box — except for the batteries, which makes it easier for the installer, Hill says.  It’s capable of feeding power back to the grid. Customers can charge the battery when rates are lower and discharge the electricity when rates are higher. In areas where there is a demand charge, customers can use the stored energy during peak hours to reduce demand charges.

Mahajan says that he wants to start buying the solar panels, inverters and control systems and use the economies of scale realized by bulk purchases to offer the products to entire subdivisions.

“I could then install this equipment for the benefit of my customers by providing them cheaper power, reliability and comfort. We would be playing our part in the green economy. As we speak people are gathering in Paris to talk about climate change. This is a huge opportunity to step up and provide my investors with a new model of asset investment and management as a utility,” he says.

Follow Microgrid Knowledge on Twitter @MicrogridNews.

About the Author

Lisa Cohn | Contributing Editor

I focus on the West Coast and Midwest. Email me at [email protected]

I’ve been writing about energy for more than 20 years, and my stories have appeared in EnergyBiz, SNL Financial, Mother Earth News, Natural Home Magazine, Horizon Air Magazine, Oregon Business, Open Spaces, the Portland Tribune, The Oregonian, Renewable Energy World, Windpower Monthly and other publications. I’m also a former stringer for the Platts/McGraw-Hill energy publications. I began my career covering energy and environment for The Cape Cod Times, where Elisa Wood also was a reporter. I’ve received numerous writing awards from national, regional and local organizations, including Pacific Northwest Writers Association, Willamette Writers, Associated Oregon Industries, and the Voice of Youth Advocates. I first became interested in energy as a student at Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut, where I helped design and build a solar house.

Twitter: @LisaECohn

Linkedin: LisaEllenCohn

Facebook: Energy Efficiency Markets

Propane Is a Sustainable Choice for Growing Microgrid Need

July 2, 2024
Construction professionals rely on propane’s lower emissions and enhanced resiliency

Download the full report.

Microgrid Implementation Challenges and Key Technologies

Schneider Electric identifies the main challenges faced during a microgrid project implementation and provides practical information for addressing them.