By Tim Camerato
Lebanon — A utility company doing business in Lebanon hopes to install hundreds of batteries in city homes this fall, as part of an ongoing effort to reduce energy prices.
Liberty Utilities is planning to launch a pilot program that would offer about 300 Lebanon homeowners subsidized prices on Tesla’s Powerwall home battery units. The home battery, which is used like a generator, stores energy for use during power outages and periods of high regional energy usage.
If the program is approved by state regulators, the batteries potentially could cut customers’ power bills in the region and save Liberty millions, according to company officials.
“It really is an exciting program,” Liberty spokesman John Shore said on Tuesday.
Under the program, Liberty customers would pay $1,000 upfront or $10 a month over 10 years for a single Powerwall, according to the company’s filings to the state Public Utilities Commission.
Liberty would subsidize the remaining $5,600 cost of purchasing and installing a Powerwall. The company also would retain ownership of the batteries.
Homeowners generally would have control over the batteries — for example, they could choose to charge their battery at night and use the energy during an outage, or they could choose to use it as their primary energy source during the daytime, when energy traditionally is most expensive.
The company also would be able to take over the batteries during times when its system faces peak demand, discharging energy from the batteries rather than further stressing the energy grid.
The pilot program ultimately will be expanded to 1,000 Liberty customers — chosen on a first come, first serve basis — across the Granite State, Shore said. But Lebanon residents will be invited to join first, largely because Liberty is hoping to forgo infrastructure upgrades within the city.
The company’s substation on Crafts Hill in West Lebanon likely will require improvements if energy demands continue to grow, Shore said, adding the use of batteries could reduce stress on that system.
Liberty estimates the batteries could avert $640,000 in construction at the substation, a cost that likely would be passed down to customers.
Officials also hope the batteries could solve statewide energy issues.
Liberty has asked that the program also institute a new electricity billing system called a “time-of-use” rate structure, which would charge customers based on the time of day they utilize energy from the electric grid. If it’s approved, that rate plan would only apply to customers participating in the pilot program.