Solar, energy storage can protect cities from power outages, create resilient communities

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Clean Energy Group

To become more resilient in the face of severe weather events, communities should rely on proven distributed energy technologies such as solar with energy storage to protect residents during power outages, according to a new report by the nonprofit Clean Energy Group (CEG).

In a blueprint for how a city could become more power-resilient, the report, “Clean Energy for Resilient Communities,” shows how Baltimore and other cities could use clean energy to create a more reliable electric system that protects vulnerable citizens during power blackouts. The report was written by CEG for The Abell Foundation, a leading private foundation in Baltimore.

“We have entered a new ‘normal’ after Hurricane Sandy, where severe weather events are more frequent, leading to more power outages and increased risk to people and businesses,” said Lewis Milford, president of CEG and co-author of the report. “Last week over a million people in the U.S. lost power during damaging ice storms. Today, due to a record ice storm developing in the southeastern U.S., hundreds of thousands of people have already lost power, with those numbers expected to rise. We need new strategies like distributed solar with energy storage to protect communities against the harmful effects of power outages. Relying only on the utilities to do the job is no longer safe or dependable.”

The report is the first in-depth review of national policies and finance strategies to use solar and energy storage to provide more power protection in an urban setting. The report states that critical public facilities such as hospitals, fire stations, gas stations, community shelters and schools should use more resilient power technologies to protect people during power outages.

The report also recommends new business models and highlights the emergence of companies that sell solar with battery storage services to customers to address the overlooked problem of stand-alone photovoltaic (PV) systems’ not working during power outages.

Although the report applies to Baltimore, its detailed policy and financing recommendations can be applied across the country. Among those recommendations are to:

  • Deploy solar with storage at critical community and government facilities that serve low-income, disabled and elderly communities during emergencies;
  • Promote targeted public funds to increase the use of clean energy in those communities;
  • Use existing bond financing tools to finance solar projects in public and community facilities such as schools, community centers and senior housing; and
  • Address the existing legal obligations of government agencies under the Americans with Disabilities Act to provide electricity so the elderly and the disabled can fully access emergency services during power outages.

The report notes the importance of reliable power to protect communities from harm.

"Resilient communities need resilient power,” the report states. “Without dependable power, a community can be brought to its knees, and the most vulnerable will suffer the most.”

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