The average electricity price that commercial and industrial (C&I) customers pay is deceiving. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, commercial customers around the country paid over 13 cents per kilowatt-hour in September 2022, an increase of nearly two cents from the previous year.
But this average kilowatt-hour price masks the difficult-to-forecast charges that can cause C&I electricity bills to skyrocket. For example, when utilities charge customers time of use rates, C&I bills can balloon if customers don’t reduce electricity use during peak demand periods. Higher prices during times of peak demand aren’t the only challenge. C&I customers can also take a financial hit from demand charges. Typically calculated based on the maximum amount of demand a customer has in any 15-minute interval over the course of a billing period, demand charges can account for as much as 70% of a customer’s utility bill.
That’s where mobile energy storage can help. Mobile energy storage is a powerful tool that enables both C&I customers and the utilities that serve them to contain costs while still maintaining or expanding their operations.
An answer to seasonal spikes in energy use
One potential application for mobile storage is with companies that have extremely high electricity demand during certain times of the year, like ski resorts that need to make snow. “A ski resort might have 10 times higher peak demand in the winter while their demand at other times is low,” said Chris McKay, general manager of Nomad Transportable Power Systems, a Vermont-based supplier of mobile energy storage systems.
Bringing in a mobile energy storage system would allow a ski resort to shave its peak demand – and the high costs associated with it – while also taking advantage of utility demand response programs.
Indeed, a ski resort may decide not to participate in a financially attractive utility demand response program because the need to continue normal operations is more important than any financial benefit caused by reducing or halting its power consumption.
For example, using a lot of electricity when conditions are right to make snow is a business necessity. A properly sized energy storage system would allow the ski resort to continue operating as normal while still taking advantage of utility demand response incentives because the storage can reduce the amount of utility power the resort would need.
Flexibility to adopt new technologies
Ski resorts are by no means the only type of company that can benefit from mobile storage. Indeed, lots of companies want to reduce their energy costs but feel powerless to do so because they don’t own their facilities. “They’re looking at a situation where they’re going to get hit with electric costs, but they don’t necessarily know that they’re going to be in a building forever,” McKay said. “Mobile energy storage allows you to bring something to a location that might be temporary and use it for the next couple of years and return it when you’re done.”
Many C&I companies today are also aggressively transitioning their vehicle fleets to be powered by electricity. The influx of electric vehicles (EVs) that need to be charged can quickly overwhelm a company’s electric infrastructure.
“If there are 20 or 30 EVs coming in and you have to charge them all, the person who runs the facility is going to tell the fleet manager that they’re going to need to run a megawatt of peak power,” McKay said. “But if the facility is only able to provide 200-kilowatts, they won’t be able to do it and will have to wait a couple of years for the utility to upgrade the grid to handle the new load.”
A mobile storage unit provides flexibility to both C&I companies that need to handle a significant new load from EVs and utilities that need time to complete grid upgrades. For example, one of the main responsibilities of a utility is to build or upgrade grid infrastructure when there’s load growth. This happens when a new business begins operating or an existing business expands. In many cases, this involves the expensive task of upgrading a substation to handle higher peak demand.
Bringing mobile storage to a grid location to offset peak demand benefits businesses because they don’t have to wait for the utility to finish a substation upgrade. But it can also benefit the utility because mobile storage could remove the need for a costly upgrade.
“Mobile energy storage can alleviate that peak and allow the utility to potentially do a CapEx (capital expenditure) deferment,” McKay said. “So instead of needing to spend a massive sum to upgrade the substation, you might be able to wait two or three years or not have to do it ever.”
A tool to improve sustainability while watching your bottom line
In other instances, mobile energy storage can complement natural gas or diesel generators used to deliver power at construction sites. Diesel generators emit large amounts of carbon dioxide and over 40 toxic air contaminants. But supplementing their use with mobile energy storage can reduce how frequently the generators need to operate.
“You can bring in batteries and couple them with those generators so you can turn them off when demand is low, and they would only go on to charge the batteries or meet the peaks,” McKay said. “It’s a way to radically reduce fuel usage at times of low demand.”
The economy is in a state of transition. Uncertainty about the possibility of a recession has many companies looking for ways to slash costs. At the same time, companies large and small are eager to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions. Mobile storage is a tool that can help achieve both of those goals.
To learn more about how Nomad Transportable Power Systems can help your company reach its energy usage goals while protecting its bottom line, visit nomadpower.com.