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Montreal power outages: Enphase provides home security

Achieving a secure home where the power grid is vulnerable.

Along with many other residents of Quebec, the 2023 Ice Storm was an event which made me, and my family, much more aware of the vulnerability of our house to power outages.

The Ice Storm caused us to be without power for three days, to be without cell phone coverage for a few hours, for our basement to flood as well as cause other damage to our house and garden. Our neighbours had similar experiences. I have yet to meet any neighbour who is NOT concerned about the costs and risks posed by power outages. As a reminder of the vulnerability of our power grid, in April 2024 (exactly a year after the Ice Storm) we had a late winter snow storm which led to almost 300,000 Quebec residents being without power.

To protect our home from further outages, last summer we commissioned Quebec Solar to install an Enphase solar battery system which would provide electricity during outages. From my experience, such solar battery technology is very little known in Montreal. A key reason for this report is to share our experience of our solar battery system with our neighbours so that they may consider it as an alternative to a generator. And for Quebec Solar, they should know to position solar battery systems as a competitive alternative to generators for the purpose of keeping their customers’ homes secure.

Yet I wanted to go beyond just describing this technology. Following the Ice Storm I wanted to understand the vulnerability of our home to power outages. It is like knowing more about tooth decay before paying for expensive dental work, if you will. How bad is tooth decay anyway? Is tooth decay particularly bad in the area where I live? With this in mind, I became much more aware of the state of our local power grid. Using a photo of electricity poles close to our home (taken on November 23 2023; shown above) I contacted both Beaconsfield City Council and Hydro-Québec to make sure they were safe. Beaconsfield City Council confirmed that these power lines were the responsibility of Hydro-Québec. I would like to comment that I have been very encouraged by my communications with Hydro-Québec and the action taken with these specific electricity poles (see article 6/6).

As a pricing consultant, I have approached this task from a value-based pricing perspective which involved discussions with my family, neighbours, local businesses, friends, colleagues, our home insurers, Quebec Solar, Enphase support, Rénoclimat as well as representatives from Beaconsfield City Council and Hydro-Québec. Thank you! I should say that the responsibility for opinions expressed in these articles are my own.

I have arranged this report into 6 sections, each targeted at a specific organization type – 1) Insurance companies, 2) Solar battery installers, 3) Solar battery OEMS, 4) Car companies, 5) Beaconsfield City Council, 6) Hydro-Québec. These can be accessed using the links embedded with each article title below.

With an intent to be helpful, each section report includes recommendations which are also shown below.

Peter Winters, June 3 2024

List of Articles and Recommendations

Article 1/6 – Insurance companies should partner with customers to make their homes less vulnerable.
Insurance companies should investigate the value of solar battery systems to improving the risk profile of their customers. Based on these results, they should offer discounts to customers with solar battery systems. This would encourage customers to install such solar battery systems and help insurance companies lower their risk exposure. At a time of evolving climate change risks, it would help ensure the long-term viability of insurance cover in areas vulnerable to power outages.

Article 2/6 – Installers should understand the financial value drivers of their customers for solar battery systems.
Installers should understand how financial value drivers vary between regions where they operate and by target group (homeowners, business, other). Where relevant, they should position solar battery as an alternative to generators. They should prepare for bidirectional charging as a game changer to the value of solar battery systems. They should consider how channel partners (insurance companies, city councils, user influencers) can help their marketing efforts.

Article 3/6 – Solar battery OEMs should design their innovations based on customer ‘Jobs to be Done’.
Solar battery OEMs should commit to developing great products, providing great service (to both installers and end customers) and provide ongoing upgrades to their offerings. They need to ensure trust in their critical support to end customers. They should understand that their end customers rely on them to stay in business for the long term.

Article 4/6 – Car companies should recognize the importance of bidirectional charging to customer adoption of EVs.
Car companies should know that ‘time anxiety’ is currently a major pain point for solar battery users. Bidirectional charging would allow homes with solar battery systems to go off-grid indefinitely. This value of bidirectional charging could encourage mass adoption of electric cars in areas where customers are vulnerable to outages.

Article 5/6 – Beaconsfield City Council should think like the Romans to manage flood risk.
Beaconsfield City Council should understand that residents are concerned about power outages and flooding. With regard to power outages, the Council should take advantage of Hydro-Québec current engagement initiatives to better understand the status of grid infrastructure within Beaconsfield and work constructively with Hydro-Québec on plans for improvement. The Council should ask for historical data about outages for residents to understand how quickly outages are being resolved and where vulnerabilities might be. The Council should help residents be prepared for 3-day outages and advise how technologies such solar battery systems might help. With regard to flooding, the Council should ‘think like the Romans’ who considered water management as a foundational technology in their civic planning. The Council should make clearer what work is being done with the money collected from residents “to rehabilitate the storm sewer network and ditch system that protect your property from extreme weather events and improve our climate resiliency.” The Council should assess whether major water infrastructure projects are likely to be necessary and communicate what is being planned. The Council should consider the example of Kitchener in helping residents design their properties to reduce flood risk.

Article 6/6 – Hydro-Québec should continue to engage with customers on power security.
Hydro-Québec should continue to improve their communication with customers, allowing customers understand the status of specific elements of grid infrastructure. They should continue in their efforts to make the grid more resilient which could include working with local city councils to co-ordinate efforts. Hydro-Québec should recognize that customer-generators have quite different perspectives to other customers and their services should be tailored accordingly. One area Hydro-Québec should explore with customer-generators is about how vehicle-to-grid (V2G) bidirectional charging might be employed.