PG&E hands out batteries to some customers at risk of utility-triggered power outages

PG&E hands out batteries to some customers at risk of utility-triggered power outages

Around 100 lucky (or perhaps not so lucky) low-income customers who have been frequently impacted by outages due to Pacific Gas & Electric’s Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS) initiative could get a no-cost battery system courtesy of the utility and Enphase Energy.

Eligible customers must live in El Dorado, Napa, and Nevada counties; be enrolled in the California Alternate Rates for Energy program; do not already have a fixed power solution (such as a battery or permanently installed generator); and have experienced the most frequent safety-related outages.

Battery availability is limited to the first 100 enrollments on a first-come, first-served basis during the initiative’s launch phase. PG&E and Enphase said they anticipate expanding installations to “several hundred new systems” in 2023.

Enphase is providing its IQ Battery, which it described as an all-in-one AC-coupled storage system. The battery is comprised of three base IQ Battery 3 storage units, has a total usable energy capacity of 10.08 kWh and 12 embedded grid-forming microinverters with 3.84 kW power rating.

In an effort to help prevent wildfire ignitions, the EPSS safety settings turn off power within one-tenth of a second when a fault, such as a tree limb contacting a powerline, is detected.

The utility said its use of these settings in high fire-risk and select adjacent areas in 2022 led to a 65% reduction in ignitions in those areas. PG&E may have been helped by a relatively quiet fire season. Wildfires across California so far this year have burned around 362,000 acres, down from 2.5 million acres in 2021 and 4.3 million acres in 2020, a record.

“It’s really just that we got lucky,” the New York Times quoted a fire advisor for the University of California Cooperative Extension as saying. PG&E equipment has been at fault in a number of large-scale wildfires in recent years, including the 2018 Camp Fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed 85 people.

Since October, working with Enphase as the battery provider and Richard Heath & Associates as the contracted installer, PG&E has contacted some 1,000 pre-qualified customers. The companies have completed around 100 site assessments and installed some 20 new home battery systems.