Despite climate disruption, Vermont’s electricity provider has promised to eliminate power outages by, among other things, funding the installation of batteries for residential customers. We’ve learned that the strategy is currently being tested by Hydro-Québec on the western island of Montreal Journalism.
Green Mountain Power (GMP), headquartered about 20 minutes from Burlington, Vermont, introduced its “no blackouts” approach (Zero interruption initiative) to state regulatory authorities on October 9.
It plans to invest up to US$30 million in energy storage, primarily by installing battery systems for its residential customers, in 2025 and 2026. These systems will be provided “to those living in rural areas of Vermont most affected by storm damage.” They are often the least able to pay [pour des batteries] », GMP explains in its license application.
GMP has about 3,000 customers already equipped with leased or purchased batteries.
During last winter’s storms, customers with battery systems maintained power during nearly 2,300 separate events, for more than 77,000 hours. Many of them fled during the entire outage.
Excerpt from Green Mountain Power’s license application
So GMP plans to install “an additional 1,500 to 1,600 batteries” within two years, a company spokesperson told us.
Under study in Quebec
As part of a pilot project that began at the end of 2022, Hydro-Québec installed the batteries at customers in the boroughs of L’Isle-Bizard, Pierrefonds-Roxborough, Saint-Laurent, and the municipalities of Kirkland, Dollard-d-Ormeau, Pointe-Claire and Dorval.
“We are evaluating the impact these residential batteries will have on our customers and our grid in the event of power outages and during peak winter consumption periods,” Hydro spokesman Cendricks Bouchard said via email.
The 20 participating households were selected from Flex D (Dynamic Pricing) subscribers who expressed interest after sending a newsletter to the sector. It is equipped with a 10-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery, a model or cost that Hydro did not want to disclose, “since the pilot has not been completed.”
This project is expected to last three years, “and it is too early to finalize a sponsored program or any other initiative.”
These batteries provide benefits beyond troubleshooting, GMP noted in its application to Vermont. The accumulated energy can, for example, be used to reduce consumption during peak periods, or at times when rates are at their highest.
GMP says this “tremendous resource” should be accessible to all customers who need it “not just those who can buy or rent a system.”
Adaptation to climate change
Climate change is increasing the frequency, size and destruction of storms, a Vermont resource says, pointing to last July’s floods and last winter’s snow.
GMP therefore proposes to invest heavily in its network in order to “create an energy system by 2030 where consumers can benefit from zero disruptions.”
In addition to the batteries, the supplier wants to invest up to US$250 million to make its grid more storm-resistant. In some areas it will bury the lines. In other cases you will protect them from falling trees using “separator-covered connectors” (Separator cables).
In Quebec, the idea of burying lines came back into effect after the ice storm last April. Burying the entire network is not realistic, because it would cost about $100 billion, as Prime Minister François Legault announced at the time.
“It’s not 100 billion in one year [mais] François Bouvard, a professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at McGill University, objects, “It’s probably 25 to 30 years, so we have to be more reasonable.”
It is believed that cables should be buried at least in all new residential projects. “This way, ultimately, we will ultimately have a more resilient and reliable network.”
Burial is “part of our failure-reduction strategies,” but it “doesn’t apply everywhere,” we were told at Hydro, pointing to two pilot projects to reduce burial: Instead of passing through concrete ducts, cables are laid on a bed of concrete. Sand under the mesh which reduces costs and working time.
“Connectors covered with spacer” were also the subject of a pilot project, but this has led to another solution “on cross-cuts, without spacer”, which should start to be deployed in 2024. Wooden columns are also being replaced with composite ones, which are more flexible and durable.
Even excluding major weather events, the average duration of service outages per customer rose 63% at Hydro between 2012 and 2022, Quebec’s auditor general condemned last December.
The average annual outage time per customer, which is significantly affected by weather events, is also increasing, according to data provided by the Hydro show. This “raw continuity index” reached 848 minutes per client in 2022, almost four times what it was in 2015 (213 minutes), among other things due to the May 2022 decision.
Other measures are aimed at improving grid resilience, Hydro said after last April’s ice storm. With vegetation responsible for 40 to 70 percent of power outages, the state utility is spending nearly $120 million to control it, nearly double what it spent in 2018.
Who is the strength of the Green Mountain?
GMP is the largest electricity distributor in Vermont, with more than 270,000 customers. A subsidiary of Quebec company Énergir, GMP is independently managed and regulated by the State of Vermont. It appeared in the 2022 ranking of the 100 most influential companies (Magazine time) and the five most innovative companies (Magazine Fast company).
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