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Do Batteries Make Sense for Homes in Alberta?

Change is happening.  More and more the world is moving towards a low-carbon energy future.  With the increasing use of renewable energy in our electrical grid, plus advances in transition to Hydrogen fuel, our homes could soon be energized in a very different way than we see today.

Let’s look at how we use energy today and how the future is trending.

The majority of homes (72%) in Alberta use natural gas as their principal energy source in a variety of ways (Heating appliances, hot water tanks, gas fireplaces, gas clothes dryers, gas stoves, and gas BBQ’s).  Since there is an abundance of natural gas available, and it is much cheaper per Giga Joule than electricity, the default has generally been to use the most cost-effective resource.

This is a changing trend and electricity is rapidly gaining share of the energy source.  Here’s why:

  • The cost to install gas piping vs electrical wiring is much higher. In new construction and renovations, gas dryer and gas stove piping are rarely done.
  • Induction stoves are very user friendly and are cost competitive with gas and conventional electric stoves. They are the most efficient and cleanest stovetop type (no exhaust pollutants).
  • Electric clothes dryers have many more models available compared to gas, leaving gas dryers as specialty items.
  • Increasing popularity of rooftop solar panels.
  • All electric Net Zero Energy homes.
  • Electric vehicles.

With this movement towards electricity, do batteries start to make sense?

With the cost of batteries continually declining (88% from 2010-2020), should one consider a battery bank?

Do Batteries Make Sense for Homes in Alberta?
Lithium-Ion Battery Price

Here are situations that batteries are a good idea:

  • Backup power system for all-electric grid-tied homes (in case of power failure).
  • Power management
    • In existing homes, a solar array and car charger combined with a power management system can use batteries to manage the electrical loads to ensure main breaker will not trip off.
  • Storing electricity reduce “transmission charges” that utility companies charge to import/export electricity.
  • https://arstechnica.com/science/2020/12/battery-prices-have-fallen-88-percent-over-the-last-decade/Off-grid buildings
    • Using batteries to store and disperse energy provided by wind, solar, or Combined Heat Power units.

For the average Albertan, these are “special” cases that aren’t really applicable.  BUT…here’s what policy-makers and utility companies see in the near future:

  • Climate change transferring more electrical loads in summer months for cooling buildings
  • Increasing electrical demand on electrical grid from increased use of electricity for heating, cooling, and transportation.

Because of this, more grid management will be needed.  This is where batteries will become more important.  With batteries, the utility companies can use “smart” meters to draw from homeowners’ batteries when there is higher loads placed on infrastructure.  This will reduce risk of power failures and brown-outs.   Our current power distribution system cannot handle the increasing demands, so it may be more cost effective to incentivize batteries than to spend billions of dollars on increasing grid capacity.

Here’s another thing…  The transition of zero-emission energy is starting a major move to using Hydrogen.  Soon, we could be seeing transportation using electric and hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, plus hydrogen replacing natural gas for heating our homes.

All of this leads to the answer to the question about if batteries make sense for homes in Alberta, considering,

  • Advances in battery technology are rapidly reducing costs.
  • Government and utility company incentive programs will become increasingly available to further reduce costs.
  • Time-of-use electrical charges (pay more for electricity during high demand times-of-day) will reduce home electrical costs by using battery power when power is expensive, and grid power when power is cheaper.

The answer is a resounding YES, but NOT YET. 

We should start to get “charged up” for a future with batteries!

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