August 31st, 2020 by Steve Hanley
GRID Alternatives is a rooftop solar company but with a twist. It focuses on bringing solar power to underserved communities in places like Baltimore, Oakland, and Indigenous communities across America. But there’s more. GRID Alternatives also trains economically disadvantaged people how to be rooftop solar installers with a particular focus on bringing women into the the renewable energy workforce. It not only helps power the homes of its customers, it empowers them to seek well paying jobs that will help lift them out of poverty. It’s a wonderful company that doesn’t get enough credit for its community building efforts in the mainstream press.
For years, Sunrun has partnered with GRID Alternatives to help it achieve its mission. Now the two companies have announced an expansion of their partnership to bring free residential storage batteries to low income families threatened by power outages from raging wildfires in California.
According to a joint press release, the two companies will provide 100% free battery systems to low-income customers in wildfire-prone regions. The batteries will be funded through California’s Self-Generation Incentive Program Equity Resiliency Budget, enabling Sunrun and GRID Alternatives to provide batteries at zero cost to the homeowners who receive them. GRID Alternatives will continue to work with community based organizations and be responsible for outreach to potential customers. The offer will include a home battery storage system and 10 years of monitoring and maintenance, on top of original warranties from the battery manufacturer. This will be Sunrun’s first time offering battery storage without solar power.
Lynn Jurich, CEO of Sunrun, says, “I encourage all Californians to take control of their own energy and explore the benefits of a home battery. Storage is critical to energy equity. This program is easy to apply for and free for California’s most vulnerable populations. It helps families keep the lights on and food fresh when the power goes out, no matter their income level, while supporting a cleaner and more reliable electricity system.”
According to a study conducted by the California Energy Commission, low-income households devote three times more of their available income on energy costs than higher earners do. Many low income families often can’t afford enough electricity to stay warm or cool. Utility shutoffs can bring about even bigger problems such as spoiled medication and food. By reaching customers who live in California’s Central Valley, in Greater Los Angeles, and elsewhere, GRID Alternatives and Sunrun are providing access to Californians who face some of the highest energy burdens and who will benefit the most from affordable, clean solutions.
“We want to live in a world where families can stay in their homes, free of burdensome energy costs, health and safety risks, and the threat of environmental disasters, through the use of renewable energy technologies like battery storage,” said GRID Alternatives CEO and co-founder Erica Mackie. “That’s why we’re excited to partner with Sunrun to bring no-cost battery storage technology to underserved customers throughout California.”
Electricity that is generated locally and stored locally has fewer carbon emissions and is more resilient than electricity from thermal generating sources. Generating energy at home and in communities means utility companies don’t have to transport as much electricity long distances in dry, wildfire-prone conditions. Distributed energy systems also enable people to share power locally, making the grid safer, more resilient and more affordable for everyone Sunrun says.
The SGIP Equity Resiliency Budget is funded through a California Public Utilities’ Commission initiative that provides rebates for distributed energy resources. This budget is dedicated specifically to equity and resiliency customers who qualify based on income or medical needs and who live in a high fire-threat district or power shutoff region. Residents who are both equity qualified and live in power-threatened regions can access incentives that make them eligible for batteries completely free of charge.
While the program is designed to serve the needs of low income families, the benefits of low carbon power and increased grid resiliency will accrue to the community as a whole, particularly in areas where the threat of destructive forest fires is prevalent. The partnership between Sunrun and GRID Alternatives is a model for how to incorporate utility customers who live in underserved communities into the clean energy revolution as it moves forward.
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