From Scott Carlberg

Your daily routine at home probably includes putting your phone on charge, or maybe charging up a small battery to use if your phone runs low.

Now take that idea and magnify it. Think about having a battery that you charge for your house. Why in the world could that be a good idea?

For a couple reasons. So you would have power when there is an outage. But that doesn’t happen much. Or, maybe when there is extreme heat or cold and the power company is reaching its maximum output. You could use some of your power to ease the load. OK, that could happen at various times. Or maybe you make your own power and want to use it for your house or to sell back to the power company. Technically it can be done, but from a regulatory side it isn’t common.

The market for residential storage systems is growing. These are behind the meter storage systems. (In front-of-the-meter is from the power company up to your home meter. Behind-the-meter starts at the meter and goes into your house.) One market analysis says that all storage installations will double in 2019 from 2018, “…with the behind-the-meter market accounting for 65 percent of the capacity.” (Source)

It’s a concept with big implications. “Many consumers clearly want the added control, reliability, and resilience that comes from having a battery at home. As a result, many communities may soon have an unexpected resource, a network of home-based batteries that residential customers have already paid for but are not used every day.” (Source)

That’s right. Behind-the-meter battery networks can feasibly act like a power plant. Eventually. The web of tiny power sources add up to meaningful power. A power transmission and distribution company could call on these resources when more electricity is needed. In the most optimistic world this network can even eliminate the need for some new big power plants.

Three issues to note.

New market: This is the beginning of a market, with lots of testing, new entrants, evolving technologies and different approaches to business. Storage systems are not necessarily from the power company, nor have that backing. A shopper can find a dozen energy storage companies at the drop of a hat right now. Careful.

Careful! Really, careful! This is about electricity. Here’s a brief example of some aspects of putting in a system. The California Public Utilities Commission points to Santa Clara County for a relatively advanced set of best practices for installation of energy storage technology. It also has a brief risk assessment page. This is not a do-it-yourself effort.

Rules are evolving: The regulatory side of residential power production and feeding it back to the grid is far from a standard regulatory process. States, power companies and special interest groups are all hammering out their viewpoints, crafting language and convincing regulators about the best way forward. What people find in their service territory now will change, and change, and …

Still, the idea of behind-the-meter power storage will happen. Consumers can take time now to watch the show as the market develops. It’s a lot more than just charging up your phone.