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Increased Resilience from Increased Microgrids?

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writer and researcher BrightGreen PR

Julian Jackson is a writer whose interests encompass business and technology, cryptocurrencies, energy and the environment, as well as photography and film. His portfolio is here:...

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Microgrid networks are increasing worldwide. In the USA, both California and New Jersey have instituted programs to boost microgrids. The California Energy Commission (CEC) has put together a $170m Community Energy Resilience funding program that invest in microgrids and other distributed energy resources (DERs). On the East Coast, New Jersey’s Town Center Microgrids community resilience program has $2 million available in funding for microgrids to improve resilience, particularly for locations degraded by Superstorm Sandy.

One of the underlying issues of microgrids is compensation structures. Price signals and incentives are needed to maximize the benefit from these resources. Currently regulatory, statutory and technical challenges often mean that microgrids are under-utilized, or do not reach their full potential.

While there may be no metrics or price signals in many jurisdictions currently, stakeholders are hoping that such measures can be implemented to boost the effectiveness of community resilience programs.

In California, the Community Energy Resilience program plans to invest in projects that will boost energy resilience and reliability, reduce outages, decarbonize and target net zero, reduce energy poverty and create well-paying jobs. Public bodies that have EVs could also use them as storage assets when they were not in use. All of these resources could be utilized to island from the grid and keep power flowing locally when the grid is down. They could also support the wider grid during times of high demand.

The California scheme will be financed from US Department of Energy grants under the federal Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. This capital is expected to be available in 2023.

Innovative projects tend to face obstacles, including technical feasibility, property ownership, rights of way issues, power ownership and how the producers interact with electric distribution companies. Tariffs need to be revised to appropriately compensate microgrids. Existing rules were drawn up long before microgrids became common and have lagged behind the deployment of these assets, so legislation needs to be implemented to ensure a level playing field between DER owners and utilities.

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