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Is now the time to get off the grid?


Credit: thomaslenne/Thinkstock

Defecting from the power grid is becoming viable a lot quicker than anyone expected. According to a new report from the Rocky Mountain Institute (RMI), in many regions solar panel and battery setups are already more cost effective than relying on utility companies. In coming years, ditching the grid might become the norm as solar setups continue to reach parity with conventional power sources.

The concept of parity—the tipping point where generating and storing power on your own is cheaper than using a utility provider—is not a new idea. However, the rapid development and corresponding price drop of solar and battery technology has finally made leaving the grid a sensible option.

The RMI study looked at New York, Kentucky, Texas, California, and Hawaii, and highlighted several different possible outcomes over the coming decades. The most immediate changes will come from places like Hawaii, where power is expensive and solar energy systems are already reaching parity. Surprisingly, the report also contends that tens of millions will leave the grid in New York and California by 2020.

Even if some areas never reach parity, the report raises the possibility that more people might begin leaving the grid for other reasons, such as climate change concerns. If people begin defecting from the grid in large enough numbers, the cost of electricity may rise, spurring a downward spiral for the utility providers.