First aid kit. Bottled water. Extra food. Most of us keep these things on hand, in case of an emergency or if the electricity goes out. We don’t need permission from the grocery store to stock up. Nor can the grocery store come into our home to monitor how we use our supplies. In fact, it’s even creepy to think about someone or something having that kind of authority.
But this freedom to store supplies doesn’t extend to our electricity. Sure, we can buy batteries for a flashlight or transistor radio, but we can’t store electricity in a battery backup system to power our furnace, refrigerator, nebulizer, basically our home without permission and monitoring from our electricity provider.
Fortunately State Senator Steve Fenberg (D-Boulder) wants to do something about it with his bill SB18-009, “Concerning the right of consumers of electricity to interconnect electricity storage systems for use on their property.”
The bill declares electric ratepayers have the following rights:
Colorado’s consumers of electricity have a right to install, interconnect, and use electricity storage systems on their property without the burden of unnecessary restrictions or regulations and without unfair or discriminatory rates or fees.
In other words, if we pay for electricity, we have a right to charge a battery for future use without interference from our provider.
Senate Republicans on the Business, Labor and Technology Committee killed a similar bill last session. Admittedly the bill had some problems. Fortunately, Fenberg crafted a much better bill for this session that common sense says should pass easily:
This short bill (only 4 pages) simply directs the Colorado Public Utilities Commission “to adopt rules allowing the installation, interconnection, and use of distributed electricity storage systems by customers of utilities” with the following guidelines:
- No red tape
- Free from excessive fees
- Simple, streamlined, and affordable for customers
- Utilities can’t require installation of an additional meter
Besides a freedom aspect, the ability to store electricity has real world benefits as I wrote regarding last year’s bill:
When peak pricing becomes a reality, ratepayers who invest in storage can charge their batteries during off peak times for use during high peak periods. The ability of an individual ratepayer to store power for later use is an effective way to reduce stress on the grid. Certainly, preferable to excessively high pricing, rolling brown outs, or building wildly expensive additional capacity.
For those with medical conditions, a power outage can be a matter of life or death. A fully charged battery could be the difference.
Even though this bill is simple and should pass, this is the state legislature, where nothing is easy. Restricting utilities’ ability to monitor how you use your stored electricity in your own home, has them lined up against the bill. Back to our original example, would we allow the grocery store access to our home to monitor how we are using food and supplies we bought from it? Of course not, so why extend that authority to utilities?
The troubling rumor is that State Senator Kevin Priola (R-Brighton), co-prime sponsor, may be willing to cave on this point. If he does, the freedom aspect of this bill is gone. No one should vote for a bill that authorizes utilities into our homes to monitor us on our side of the meter.
The right to store will be heard today at 2 p.m. in Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Energy where it enjoys bi-partisan support.* Theoretically it should pass, but I’ve learned making predictions about the state legislature is an uncertain business and sure to make anyone look like a fool.
Editor’s note: Amy Cooke’s husband State Senator John Cooke is a sponsor of SB18-009.