Microgrids: Fad, Fashion, or Fundamental for the Future

Jeff Perkins, ERS
Presentation at AESP’s 26th National Conference in Phoenix, AZ, on Wednesday, February 3 at 1:30 p.m.
Session 5C: DSM Business

In this presentation we will explore how the adoption of microgrids fits into the collective efforts to reduce long-term costs, promote distributed resources, and build resiliency into the grid, and how current government-funded programs and electric and gas utility policies should respond.

With record-setting storms wreaking havoc on our aging electrical infrastructure, states and local communities alike are rethinking the path toward solving today’s energy and environmental challenges. Microgrids are suddenly all the rage. Is this technology more than just the latest buzz word within the clean energy space? In fact, this concept and related technology have been around for a long time. University campuses, national labs, hospitals, and the military have adopted this technology for their own resiliency, but now microgrids are being introduced on a broader community level through government-funded programs and state initiatives. Connecticut, after being hit hard by hurricanes Irene and Sandy and various unnamed winter storms, started down the path in 2012 with $18 million that funded nine projects. Pleased with the result, the state has launched a second wave of funding. New Jersey and New York like what they see, and the latter has developed the NY PRIZE program, allocating $8.1 million to develop up to fifteen community microgrid projects. In addition, New York’s State Energy Plan encourages small distributed energy resources that could grant communities the option to disconnect from the grid and integrate renewables more easily.

This is not just an East Coast trend; California is also putting the emphasis on “renewable and smart” in their $30 million microgrid funding initiative. As states support and drive microgrid development, it is important for them not to lose sight of integrating energy efficiency and load optimization within microgrids to help meet aggressive greenhouse gas emission reduction goals. If microgrids are implemented effectively, leveraging the progress already made in using energy efficiently, they can help utilities, communities, and states meet those goals.

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