Grocery stores are a crucial resource for people before and after major storms, but customers of numerous Connecticut food retailers found themselves out of luck in the wake of Hurricane Sandy eight years ago.
The storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses in Connecticut alone, and caused nearly $75 billion worth of damage to the eastern United States, according to federal estimates.
“We had one retail member with 91 stores but nine generators,” Connecticut Food Association President Wayne Pesce recalled during a panel discussion at the recent virtual Connecticut Climate Action Business Summit. “Anyone who wanted groceries for six to eight days was going to have a problem.”
The experience was a wake-up call for the importance of storm resiliency, which promises to be a bigger focus moving forward, since climate change is expected to produce increasingly frequent storm events.
Pesce said many stores have invested in emergency generators since Sandy.
Those standby power sources, which can cost a store several hundred thousand dollars depending on their size, came in handy during August’s Tropical Storm Isaias, as power outages hit nearly 1 million utility customers in the state.
However, most generators run on fossil fuels like diesel or gas, meaning they emit pollution and contribute to climate change. Battery storage technology offers a cleaner backup power source, but it’s also more expensive than (already costly) polluting generators.
Now, grocers are hoping for new state-level incentives to entice operators to invest in battery backup power.
AmeriZone, a consulting firm run by former Connecticut House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, collaborated with the food association on a recent proposal to the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, calling for up-front rebates and low-interest financing for essential commercial and industrial companies that invest in a battery storage backup system in order to be prepared for future multi-day power outages.
“The technological options for battery storage have been accelerating in recent years from promising theory, to proven applications, to market-ready, to scaled, affordable options,” AmeriZone’s July 31 pitch to PURA reads.
Eversource, Avangrid, the Connecticut Green Bank and several others also submitted their own battery storage incentive program proposals, which are part of an expansive, multipart “grid modernization” review underway at PURA since last year.
AmeriZone’s envisioned rebate aims to cover the cost differential between a similarly sized diesel generator and a battery alternative. The incentive would increase for those who are replacing an existing fossil fuel generator.
The rebates would ultimately be funded by utility ratepayers, while battery financing would come from a revolving fund, perhaps overseen by the Green Bank.
AmeriZone wants the state to seed that fund with a portion of the $55 million it received from a legal settlement with Volkswagen several years ago following an emissions-test cheating scandal.
The original article can be found at Hartford Business Journal.