Energy resilience, while vitally important, is becoming more and more challenging in the face of increased extreme weather events which are projected to cause more frequent and longer power outages.
The COVID-19 pandemic is further compounding resiliency issues for utilities. Energy cooperative members are working and attending school from home, making energy resilience even more critical, but there has been a substantial decrease in commercial and industrial loads, causing revenue shortfalls and increased arrearages. Additionally, cooperative contingency plans have been challenged by distancing measures and quarantines impacting productivity and scheduling.
Residential resiliency is a challenge for utilities, because their work to make the grid resilient is not fully recognized by the homeowners whose homes are connected to it, and their homes are not energy resilient. Nearly 40 percent of U.S. housing stock was built before 1970, and that means there are hundreds of thousands of homes with electrical and gas systems that were built 50 years ago or even earlier. In many of these older homes, energy resilience isn’t even on the radar.
Older home systems are dealing with more sophisticated appliances and devices and a greater demand than could have been predicted 50 years ago. If these systems haven’t been replaced recently, then they are reaching or have passed the end of their useable lifespans. Additionally, interior wiring and gas lines could be out of compliance with local codes, which have evolved since these homes have been built.
Many homeowners don’t do regular maintenance or inspections of their home systems, either because they don’t realize it is needed or can’t afford these measures. This can wreak havoc particularly on HVAC systems, which need annual maintenance to operate safely and efficiently. Additionally, most homeowners don’t practice energy resilience by having contingency measures for losing power.
In many cases, members are unaware of their responsibilities to maintain their electrical and gas service connections. If a falling tree knocks out their electric service or a gas line is damaged by inclement weather, they may be unpleasantly surprised to learn that the service line is their responsibility. Although utilities can invest in their own systems, there is little they can do to improve members’ infrastructure.
Many of the same things the industry is doing to strengthen the grid can be adapted on a smaller scale for individual homes and businesses, including trimming trees, incorporating DERs and installing battery storage or a generator. Weatherization can make homes more efficient by reducing energy use by up to 85 percent, and installing energy efficient products and devices, such as LED lights and smart thermostats, can improve efficiency and resilience. Many utilities feature programs such as incentives and net metering to support these adaptions, and government subsidies can help defray improvement costs as well.
The industry must also ask: What about the millions of Americans who can’t afford to make repairs to their homes? LIHEAP and individual utilities’ energy equity programs can only go so far.
You can help your members avoid loss of service because of a nagging maintenance issue and proactively address safety issues – in short, their home systems can become more resilient – with an optional home repair service plan from HomeServe.
HomeServe offers coverage for gas and electrical service connections, interior electrical and plumbing systems, water heaters and HVAC systems. Our interior and exterior electric wiring plans, in some states, include optional storm damage protection from falling trees, tree branches, wind or ice, in addition to normal wear and tear. Some plans also include reimbursement for incurred expenses such as food spoilage. We have a nationwide system of thoroughly vetted contractors and an award-winning call center with live operators 24/7/365. If your meber has a gas or electrical issue, they can contact us day or night and a contractor will be dispatched, and there are no call-out fees or deductibles.
To help your members improve their energy resilience at home, contact us.