By: Lindsey Rhoten,

Elon Musk’s curiosity for dabbling into green technologies beyond Tesla’s electric cars emerges at the most critical moment in time; when the state of Earth’s health and the fate of the human race depends on morphing anthropogenic behavior. The human race desperately needs someone that prioritizes Earth’s integrity to invest the endless hours and the billions of dollars into innovating green alternatives for human mobility and energy consumption. This energy innovation is invaluable in moving away from operating power plants that burn fossil fuels, to a source that does not insulate solar heat in the atmosphere.[1]

Telsa is progressing towards a sustainable lifestyle with Telsa’s new Powerpack and Powerwall batteries that allow private homes, business entities, and utilities to collect sustainable and renewable solar energy to “manage power demand, provide backup power and increase grid resilience.”[2] These two energy storage mechanisms now provide a simple do-it-yourself method to utilizing the output of the renewable energy source.[3] The Powerwall is a rechargeable battery designed to store excess energy from solar panels, or the grid if there are no solar panels, and provide access to the left over energy for residential use upon demand.[4] The Powerpack is similar but adjusted to a larger size for business and utility usage.[5] This enables the commercial or larger entity to disconnect the Powerpack from the main power source and convert into its own independent micro grid source using stored energy.[6]

The United States electricity infrastructure is comprised of legacy grids that serve to generate, transmit, and distribute electricity to consumers.[7] One of the greatest shortcomings of the current energy system is that the grid must balance the energy supply to ensure that the electricity availability is contemporaneously adaptable to the increases in demand.[8] The legacy grid relies on peaking plants to elevate the supply with the demand; however, these plants waste energy if the demand is not present and they also generate more pollution than nonpeak plants.[9]

While decreasing fossil fuel use and slowing the flow of overcrowded grids are logical alternatives for those compelled to clean up the environment and save money on the monthly power bill, utility companies are certainly not the first to lobby support of this technology.[10] When consumers connect these energy storage batteries to their home or business as a power source, they are no longer dependent on the services provided by public utility companies.[11] Consequently, public utility profits decrease and the company may not be able to guarantee the viability of the company.[12]

The Federal Energy Regulation Commission (FERC), with regulation by the state, protects this natural monopoly,[13] which is where one company can provide a cheaper service to the entire market than multiple companies could.[14] Utility companies are trying to charge renewable energy users a higher fee because some users still connect to the grid as a backup emergency source and as a result, utilities want to recoup their fair share of grid infrastructure maintenance costs.[15] However, utilities cannot continue to resist this innovative technology. The industry must evolve alongside the technology and adopt flexible practices, while continuing to provide an equitable and safe product for all consumers, renewable energy users or not.

 

[1] See Union of Concerned Scientists, Is There a Connection Between the Ozone Hole and Global Warming?, https://www.ucsusa.org/global-warming/science-and-impacts/science/ozone-hole-and-gw-faq.html#bf-toc-0 (last visited Apr. 11, 2018) (stating that global warming is largely caused by humans burning fossil fuels, such as oil and coal, which put an excessive amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Instead of the solar heat radiating out into space, the carbon dioxide particles act as a blanket to insulate solar heat in the atmosphere).

[2] Chaunceton B. Bird, Growth and Legal Implications of Energy Storage Technologies, Utah L. Rev. OnLaw 33, 41 (2017) (describing the Tesla Powerpack and Powerwall as innovative green technologies for energy storage and consumption).

[3] See id.

[4] See Tesla, Powerwall Overview: What is Powerwall?, https://www.tesla.com/support/energy/learn/powerwall/overview (last visited Apr. 11 2018).

[5] See Tesla, Powerpack: Applications, https://www.tesla.com/powerpack (last visited Apr. 11, 2018).

[6] See id. at Powerpack: Microgrid.

[7] See Lindsay Breslau et al., Batteries Included: Incentivizing Energy Storage, 17 Sustainable Dev. L. & Pol’y 29, pt. I, § A (2017).

[8] See id. at 2.

[9] See id.

[10] See id. at pt. II, § C.

[11] See Bird, supra note 2, at 60.

[12] See id. (stating that if people disconnect from the grid, consumers will not be able to receive the rewards of resource sharing, which would subsequently result in an unequal and expensive electricity system).

[13] See id. at 48-49.

[14] Natural monopoly, Cambridge University Press Dictionary (2018), https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/natural-monopoly.

[15] See Breslau, supra note 7, at pt. II, § C.

Image Source: http://energypost.eu/green-electricity-europe-isnt-green/.

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