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Community Microgrids - A Vital Tool for Implementing Climate Action Plans

Updated: Oct 13, 2020

Just a couple of last week’s headlines; “Climate Change has Arrived” in the Week and “Its Electric Grid Under Strain, California Turns to Batteries” in the New York Times reflect the tip of one “iceberg” (albeit figurative) on the planet that is getting bigger by the day: the climate crisis. Along with it, is the imperative to act. Communities must play a role in developing and refining climate solutions[1]. They know better than to expect that a “magic bullet” will emerge from the "ether" to address the challenge. Informed, thoughtful climate action plans are just one critical step. “Quick turn projects” with high returns for learnings and refinements with low consequences of early failure are the fastest, lowest risk means to achieving the goals of those plans.

There is not a town or city that does not consider its electric grid as part of its “critical infrastructure”. Every climate action plan must include provisions for mitigating greenhouse gases (GHG) from electricity generation and safeguarding the grid while preparing for significant power outages. The community microgrid (also referred to a multi-user microgrids, wide area microgrids, district microgrids and virtual power plants) can be a highly effective tool that municipalities and campuses use to address that aspect of their climate action plan. We just published the article: The Case for Microgrids in Community Resilience Measures as an introduction and a means to promote creative thinking around this tool. The article touches upon its many benefits. Every town and city electric grid have its specific needs and quirks. Microgrids are exceedingly flexible with many levers to tailor for the needs of the user. They lend themselves to “getting it just right” for each and every town provided a process of collaboration and fine tuning is followed. With smart, versatile control and platform choices, they can be built incrementally as building blocks in the form of “quick turn projects” mentioned above that get better and better with each block. New grant and incentive programs for climate resilience measures are hitting the streets.

There is no time like the present for cities, towns, or communities to seriously consider starting to integrate microgrids into the fabric of their existing grid. Deferral in this case can translate into less time to build necessary knowledge and make effective refinement the specific use case, thereby increasing, not decreasing the risk. If you are a municipality or campus with a project in mind or just looking to learn more, please reach out to us.

[1] Further details of this approach can be found in the article Municipalities at the Frontlines of Climate Change. Lesson from COVID 19.

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