cleantech insights

Musings on Microgrids

Yakov Berenshteyn

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we’ve seen a renewed focus in the media on climate change. As it so often does, the conversation points to technology as a lever for both mitigation and adaptation.

Microgrids in particular are suddenly top of mind again, covered in MIT Technology Review, Fast Company, Christian Science Monitor, and Huffington Post in a span of just five days. These pieces praise microgrids for enabling distributed renewables (mitigation) and taking critical customers like hospitals off the main power grid in emergencies (adaptation).

While we applaud any effort to raise awareness of clean technology, it’s important not to have a knee-jerk response to climate events like Sandy. In the case of microgrids, it’s not what these authors wrote – but rather what they didn’t write – that has us giving a word of caution: the latest reports lay out microgrids’ great technological benefits, but give little advice as to how an institutional or commercial electricity customer should navigate the overwhelmingly complex regulatory structure behind utility operations in order to actually develop and deploy a microgrid.

In many regions of the US, the reality is that it will be up to the utilities and …