January 20, 2021

How COVID-19 Has Affected Power Use

By Emily Langenbahn

Nine months into a global pandemic, how is the solar and battery storage industry (and the field of renewable energy, for that matter) advancing so quickly?

Stay-At-Home Orders
First, and perhaps the most obvious, is that residential solar and battery storage installations skyrocketed approximately one month after the shutdowns began because, well, many people were suddenly home all day, which led to a dramatic increase in their electric bills. Southern California Edison (SCE) also had their rates set to increase in April 2020, and with many people facing sudden job losses, the pressure to pay their utility bills mounted.

Costs Are Falling
Next, renewable energy prices fell to record lows at the end of 2019, dropping below coal and gas for the first time ever in 2018, and prices are still dropping. In fact, according to Forbes, “. . . Solar photovoltaics have fallen 89% on average . . . Utility-scale renewable energy prices are now significantly below those for coal and gas generation . . . The latest numbers again confirm that building new clean energy generation is cheaper than running existing coal plants.” For more information, see the full article here(https://www.forbes.com/sites/energyinnovation/2020/01/21/renewable-energy-prices-hit-record-lows-how-can-utilities-benefit-from-unstoppable-solar-and-wind/?sh=7c2d093c2c84).
Strain on the Grid

COVID-19 has had a significant impact on utility companies, particularly from shifts in demand, financial stress from consumers, and disruptions to the power supply chain. Old, outdated equipment requires constant repair, and the additional strain in power consumption from the grid caused several rolling blackouts over the summer in California. This resulted in more people coupling battery storage with their solar systems in order to prevent loss of power to their home during the dangerously hot summer months and relieve overall strain to the grid.

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