Thursday, November 21, 2013

The Microgrid Future

I don't do this often, but I'm going to have you go read something else first:

http://www.fortnightly.com/fortnightly/2013/11/utility-20-and-dynamic-microgrid

go ahead...I'll wait...


This article by Mani Vadari (Modern Grid Solutions) and Gerry Stokes (Brookhaven National Labs) strikes me as a significant change in the view of the future of the grid.  The article really doesn't say anything that a lot of us haven't already thought about, but it brings a lot of ideas together and begins to spell out a path from here to there.

  • Natural Microgrids - College and Business Campuses, Military Bases, remote locations, situations needing high-reliability backup, etc.
  • Natural Microgrids with more localized control
  • Distributed Distribution Grid
  • Dynamic Microgrid

Some might consider the just over a decade transition time as a bit enthusiastic (or downright impossible) or quibble with the fuzzy and somewhat arbitrary boundaries of the "stages", but the authors are saying (without pointing it out explicitly) that this will all be driven from the consumer's decision-making process (market-pull) rather than centralized decision-making processes (control-push).

This is an important point in support of their timeline.  One of my earlier blog entries (linked to above) pointed out the speed of technology transition that comes from market-pull, when I pointed out that 30 years ago, 2400 bits/second tied to a cable in the wall was a big deal at the consumer level.  Now I can have about 160 times that (or more) carried around in my pocket, and that's where the service isn't particularly good.  That's a huge amount of technology change, and a lot of that has been in the last decade or so.

The fact that the article is forward looking, makes a reasonable case for letting the market do its thing, and gives a pretty good picture of the expected result is impressive.  But that isn't the thing that got my attention.

The fact that it does it in Public Utilities Fortnightly got my attention.

You have to be (or have been) a regulator to catch the importance of that.  If there is any publication that gets regulators thinking, and arguing, and thinking some more, and eventually changing their minds, it's PUF.

Good show!  Now we get to watch the comments, contra-articles, and letters to the editor roll in.

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