The Role of Microgrids in the Energy Transition
Updated: Feb 8, 2021
The 20th Century’s electrical energy system has lived up to the expectations by remaining remarkably reliable in connecting large centralized electricity production with our homes, businesses and other demand centres for the electrification purposes.
But the tide has turned and the energy challenges of 21st Century demand radical changes in the way we produce, distribute, and consume energy to make our energy system more efficient, affordable, resilient, and sustainable.
The Energy Transition context:
Expected increase of electrical energy demand globally
CO2 emissions and fossil energy reduction
Access to energy for 1.2 billion people mostly in developing countries
Need for more resilient electrical energy system
The good news is that microgrids can help. If designed and implemented properly microgrids can contribute significantly to the energy transition by providing concrete and practical answers to improve energy accessibility, green energy, energy flexibility, energy cost optimization, energy reliability and resiliency, energy independence.
To put it simply, microgrids are local, interconnected energy systems. It combines a group distributed energy sources (such as solar PV, wind etc), energy storage, and local loads within clearly defined electrical boundaries and enable them to cooperate with each other with a shared objective of achieving pre-defined goals related to energy costs, CO2 emissions, reliability. A microgrid can connect and disconnect from the grid to enable it to operate in both grid-connected or island mode.
As cooperation and coordination among different assets within microgrids is crucial for reaching the expected goals related to energy costs, CO2 emissions, and reliability. Therefore, the control system is the most essential component of a microgrid. It is responsible for effective operation of overall system. This is also one of the key technical challenges standing in the way of microgrids becoming one of the keystones for energy transition because successful cooperation and coordination among different assets toward a shared objective requires multiple layer of control.
Key benefits of Microgrid:
Energy reliability: Resiliency through the microgrid’s ability to island itself from the main grid and to be self-sufficient.
Energy accessibility: Access to energy at a reasonable cost, when in a remote area or far from the main grid, through the microgrid’s self-sufficiency
Energy cost optimization and energy flexibility: Optimizing the schedule for distributed energy resources to operate the best mix of resources for self-consumption, energy storage time shifting, demand- response programs, or grid-balancing services.
Energy independence and green energy: Integrating affordable renewable energy to boost safety, reduce emissions, and lower fuel costs.
There are technical challenges but the pace of innovation over the past decade related to the advancement of microgrids is very encouraging. Many prospective studies show that the future where microgrids will be commonplace is technically feasible and forthcoming.
How Microgrids Contribute to the Energy Transition, Schneider Electric White Paper
How New Microgrid Technologies Enable Optimal Cooperation among Distributed Energy Resources, Schneider Electric