Power lines

Two years ago, Green Mountain Power in Vermont decided that it no longer made sense to maintain an old power line to remote campgrounds at Emerald Lake State Park. So the company installed a system of solar panels and battery storage instead.

It might seem strange for a utility to promote systems that do not involve transmission lines and a centralized grid. But Mary Powell, CEO of Green Mountain Power, does not see it that way.

Powell: “I feel it’s counterintuitive for a utility not to be doing this kind of stuff.”

She says going off-grid can make financial sense in some remote areas. And, it can appeal to consumers who are eager to use renewables and be more self-sufficient.

So now, Green Mountain Power offers services to help customers leave the grid. Staff will visit a property and design an independent electricity system. Then, the utility can finance, install, and maintain it for a monthly fee.

It’s not cheap. And so far, only one customer is moving forward with a fully off-grid system. But as renewable technology develops and gets less expensive, Powell says the energy industry is changing, and utilities should be ready to make changes too.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Jan Ellen Spiegel

Jan Ellen Spiegel is a long-time Connecticut-based journalist whose career has included radio, television, print, and digital reporting. She has won awards for her reporting on energy, environment, climate...