Energy reliability is essential to the success of any business. Consequently, an aging power grid that is not reliable can cause most business owners to lie awake at night. Especially during major storms, flooding, earthquakes, or wildfires. This is especially true for companies in:

  • Food and beverage production, distribution, and storage
  • Biotech and pharmaceutical
  • Grocery store chains
  • Mining operations

Energy reliability is even more important with an aging power grid

Yet, energy reliability is an often overlooked necessity until unexpected challenges leave businesses without power. The grid is old, fragile, and can lead to the loss of thousands to millions in revenue, within a few short hours.

Several businesses are looking for alternative solutions, like the kinds of onsite energy options offered through VECKTA’s platform. So let’s dive into the energy reliability challenges, and what you as a business owner can do.

Microgrids as Reliability Heroes in Texas

When Hurricane Harvey hit in 2017, 300,000 Texas utility customers were without power. The hurricane showcased major regional failures in grid infrastructure in addition to the state’s inability to respond effectively. However, a Texas-based grocery chain, H-E-B, was able to use its microgrids at 18 locations to meet full-facility power needs for five consecutive days!

Grid Energy Reliability Over Time In the US is decreasing

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration, Annual Electric Power Industry Report

Using an energy reliability-as-a-service model, H-E-B’s grocery stores (all 45 in the Houston area) can function normally despite area outages. And with perishable items like dairy or meat needing to be thrown away after just 2 hours at about 40 degrees, this is a massive cost savings to the grocery store chain. 

H-E-B’s microgrids are seen as reliability heroes. They are designed to keep refrigerators and freezers running, the lights on, and cash registers functioning during power disruptions. This enables H-E-B grocery stores to stay open and provide the public with food, emergency supplies, and even shelter. 

Challenges with the U.S. Grid Infrastructure

According to the Department of Energy, from 2010 to 2020, there has been a decrease in the cost of energy production, but a 65% increase in power delivery cost. Businesses across the U.S. have seen increases in their energy costs over time, especially here in California.  

“The US transmission and distribution grid is old and needs upgrades,” said Jigar Shah,  the director of the Loan Programs Office of the US Department of Energy.  “If you’re wondering why your power bill went up, look to the grid of transmission and distribution wires,” says Shah.

The grid is made up of millions of miles of power lines, which together are an average of 40 years old. These lines are powering more people and businesses than they were originally designed to provide for. Building, operating, and maintaining these powerlines is costly and will only grow more expensive as the grid continues to age. 

And for a new transmission line to be planned, permitted, and built, it can take seven to 10 years. Patrick McHugh of Con Edison utility company says, “but the cost to make it perfect is not in anyone’s interest.”

There is also the issue of line loss, “the amount of power inserted into the grid at point A that never makes it to point B.” Line loss is at about 5%, according to the DOE, which is “enough to power all seven Central American countries four times.” 

With a grid that was updated nearly half a century ago, operating for a population that is nearly 40% greater, U.S. businesses have to consider alternative energy solutions to maintain a source of reliable energy.

Challenges Related to Climate-Related Disasters

Infrastructure issues are only exacerbated by climate disasters. We already shared about the effect of Hurricane Harvey in Texas in 2017.  A few years later, in 2021, Texas was again ravaged by power outages, however, this time from a deep freeze.

Extreme weather has a massive effect on energy reliability

In February 2021, an unexpected storm front set new records for load requirements for 8 consecutive days. The cold temperatures left several power stations unable to operate, resulting in rotating outages. At any given time, four million customers were without power in Texas.

As climate-related threats to the power grid are only projected to intensify, the aging grid will not be able to handle the demand.

California’s Drought and Wildfires

There is hope for some climate-related challenges, like wildfires, but the solution could have a negative impact on businesses like breweries and wineries that operate in California’s fire-prone areas.

In 2021, Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) launched a pilot program: Enhanced Powerline Safety Settings (EPSS).   This advanced technology quickly and automatically shuts off power within one-tenth of a second if a potential threat to the electric system, such as a tree branch falling into a powerline, is detected. 

Seen as a success, EPSS will be expanded to all distribution powerlines in high fire-threat areas this year. While saving fragile ecosystems from wildfires, public safety power outages are not a long-term or viable solution to maintaining an aging grid.

Innovative Businesses Deserve Innovative, Sustainable Solutions 

As businesses begin to invest in innovative technologies and set sustainability goals, it is vital their energy supply can reliably support these efforts. Take Anderson Valley Brewing Company (AVBC), the world’s first solar-powered brewery. Their team continues to seek out new clean tech ways to brew the best beer yet minimize their impact on the planet.

“We are quality-obsessed and relentlessly innovative. Energy as we’ve always thought about it, simply from the grid, is changing. Breweries and wineries that embrace this change and move in the direction of on-site energy production will not only cut carbon emissions but save millions,” says Kevin McGee CEO at Anderson Valley Brewing Company.

Energy Reliability: How VECKTA Can Help

Supply Chain Costs Are Rising

VECKTA works with companies like Anderson Valley Brewing Company to take control of their energy by developing customized onsite energy solutions. 

In addition, these multiple renewable energy assets are flexible. This means that, unlike tapping into traditional power grids, onsite microgrids can be built to adapt with the business. To learn more about how you can implement multi-dimensional solutions to ensure energy reliability, drop us a message and let’s chart a new course together that’s better for your business, and the planet.

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