Utility provider Green Mountain Power is aiming to make power outages in Vermont a thing of the past by deploying energy storage batteries and microgrids, as well as undergrounding and storm-hardening of power lines.
GMP is a utility company that serves more than 270,000 residential and business customers in Vermont with electricity that’s 100% carbon-free and 78% renewable on an annual basis. The company’s latest initiative, dubbed the Zero Outages Initiative, will lower costs while keeping customers and communities connected.
Enhanced Battery Storage and Clean Energy Technologies
To meet its goals, GMP will need $280 million over the next two years to complete the first phase of the initiative, including $250 million for undergrounding and storm hardening lines. The remaining $30 million is earmarked for energy storage. GMP is filing its plan with regulators for the investment.
The company’s second phase will involve another filing with regulators for approval to accelerate and expand beyond 2026 as outages and repair costs drop off.
The Zero Outages Initiatives “leverages circuit-level resiliency data, combined with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) community vulnerability data, topography, and other metrics to determine the right resiliency approaches for each of GMP’s 300 circuits,” the company said.
The approach will ensure zero outages for all customers. The plan also leans on energy storage and microgrids, including emerging technologies such as vehicle-to-home bidirectional charging. Under the plan, GMP will provide rural customers with residential batteries, with a goal to provide all customers with energy storage.
The connection of other technologies comes as Texas recently announced it would connect virtual power plants to its power grid to reduce energy outages. The plan aggregates consumer-owned, small energy devices, such as battery energy storage systems, backup generators, and controllable electric vehicle chargers.
The company has launched other home battery programs to improve energy resiliency, including community microgrids and resiliency zones and a resilient all-electric neighborhood that is under construction now.
Regulators in the state recently released the cap on GMP’s home battery program, ensuring all customers who want a residential battery can sign up. Currently, there are 5,000 batteries in customers’ homes that are part of GMP’s larger stored energy network. This also includes utility-scale batteries, controllable devices like EV chargers, and school bus batteries through vehicle-to-grid technologies.
Stormy Impacts on Utility
The new initiative comes after a particularly impactful year, with several devastating storms that GMP noted were an effect of climate change-strengthening storms. The company will target the hardest hit areas in rural central and southern Vermont first, GMP said.
In the last year, major storms in the state led to more than $45 million in repairs. Over the past 10 years, storms have caused $115 million in damage across GMP’s service area. Of those damages, 60% were within the last five years, with 40% in the last two years. The $45 million spent in 2023 was the highest amount yet, the company said. Notably, the repair costs do not prevent future outages.
“We all see the severe impacts from storms, we know the impact outages have on your lives, and the status quo is no longer enough,” Mari McClure, GMP president and CEO, said in a statement. “We are motivated to do all we can to combat climate change and create a Vermont that is sustainable and affordable, but we must move faster. Together with our customers, regulators, our communities, and that Vermont spirit that manages to innovate despite all odds, we have all we need to revolutionize the energy system and ensure a stronger, more affordable Vermont.”
GMP has already installed 50 miles of underground lines in rural residential areas, and customers in those areas did not experience recent power outages during major storms. Spacer cables also prevented power outages, even when trees fell on lines.