Publishing with Purpose 



Microgrids and the Future of Energy

Ten Implications for Corporate Sustainability

Today's energy markets are undergoing a transformation. The top-down monopoly system dominated by large-scale fossil and nuclear power plants that send power to passive consumers is shifting to a dynamic, bi-directional network increasingly dependent upon distributed resources. An increasing diversity of technology, fuels and ownership plays a starring role.

A key technology necessary to this new distributed energy future is a microgrid. When Thomas Edison helped birth today's electric utility industry, his original vision was a series of microgrids, serving customers from on-site power generation. Over time, however, a "bigger is better" mentality drove the market to monopoly structures. Today, huge declines in the cost of modular technologies such as rooftop solar photovoltaics (PV) are challenging the status quo, requiring innovation in hardware and software -- and new business models to allow corporations seeking an edge toward sustainability.

What is a microgrid? The Department of Energy calls it "a group of interconnected customer loads and distributed energy resources (DER) within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity that can connect and disconnect from the grid (known as "islanding").

Affinity Press

The key defining feature is the capability to island itself off from the larger power grid during times of a blackout. But it also helps integrate distributed renewables into utility-scale resources. Ironically enough, the term "microgrid" originally was applied to systems that optimized resources into a network not connected to any utility grid. The United Nations has identified this latter business model and opportunity as the key pathway to providing universal access to energy for the developing world.

The 10 key trends presented in this book offer strong implications for any corporate entity seeking to understand how this new wave of deregulation and innovation will affect its triple bottom line.

Affinity Press, 2014