Panel Paper: Electricity Outages As a Predictor of Residential Solar-Plus-Storage System Adoption

Saturday, March 10, 2018
Room 16 (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Jenneille H. Hsu and Lee V. White, University of Southern California

Residential solar photovoltaic (PV) panels have the capacity to provide distributed electricity during large-scale natural disaster events when centralized electric grids are incapacitated, and when long-distance transmission lines are downed. However, in many locales it is illegal for PV systems to be wired such that they continue providing electricity to the grid in the event of a power outage, due to the danger this presents to repair workers. Battery-tied PV systems can be configured as ‘islandable’ systems able to provide localized electricity supply without electrifying downed grid lines in the event of a power outage. Building on an existing literature that finds people are willing to pay to reduce frequency and length of electricity outage events, we examine the extent to which a greater number of residents in areas with more outages install islandable PV-plus-storage systems that incorporate both solar PV and batteries.

Focusing on 35 districts in California, this study will evaluate the influence of electricity outage frequency and length on the adoption of islandable residential PV-plus-storage systems. Data on solar storage installations as well as power outages will be collected from a large investor-owned utility in the state. Employing negative binomial models, this analysis will also examine other factors that may influence households’ decision to install PV-plus-storage systems, including district-level socioeconomic factors (education, median income, and environmental ideology), solar insolation, and frequency of natural disasters. The findings of this study will enhance understanding of household willingness to pay for reliable electricity, and of what drives residential adoption of both solar PV and battery systems.