Last week, we wrote about the advantages and growth potential of microgrids—particularly the solar variety. In today’s post, we’ll dig into what five leading states are doing to promote microgrids.
California has always been a leader in electricity innovation, and that’s true in the world of microgrids too. With 39 operational and planned microgrid developments, California leads all states in terms of the highest number of microgrid projects, according to GTM research.
The state’s exploration of microgrids started with a California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) paper detailing best practices for utilities and regulators to facilitate the development of microgrids. Then the California Energy Commission (CEC) put its money where its mouth is, and awarded $26.5 million to microgrids that incorporate low-carbon sources of electricity.
Connecticut was an early leader in microgrid development. The state now has the biggest share of community microgrids, according to GTM research. This is due in large part to the Microgrid Grant and Loan Program, created to support local distributed energy generation for critical facilities. So far the program has provided over $20 million in funding for multiple projects, with an additional $30 million authorized over the next several years. We’re hoping to see more solar microgrids when the latest round of funding is awarded.
The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) released a grid modernization plan in June 2014 encouraging utilities to, among other things, develop ten-year plans to help facilitate the growth of microgrids. The state even agreed to pre-authorize utility investment in the first five years in order to expedite progress.
Another important boost to microgrids in Massachusetts is the Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative. This program provides $40 million in grant funding for projects that use clean energy like solar to protect communities from energy interruptions. So far $25 million has been awarded.
New Jersey is another microgrid leader. A few years ago, Governor Chris Christie allocated $25 million to 146 government agencies to develop microgrids and other projects that will improve the state’s energy resiliency. The state is also studying a project called NJ TransitGrid, a first-of-its kind transportation microgrid.
Another funding source for microgrids is the state’s Energy Resilience Bank, which allocates an impressive $200 million to support distributed energy resources at critical facilities.
New York is the clear leader in terms of installed microgrid capacity. The state’s 20 percent market share puts it in the number one spot nationally. Notably, most of the microgrids in the state come from combined heat and power (CHP), while only a small percentage is sourced from solar. We’re betting this will change soon, and we’re already seeing a shift towards increased solar: the largest municipal microgrid under development, in Potsdam New York, will include 2 megawatts (MWs) of solar photovoltaic (PV), along with CHP and hydropower.
To get the ball rolling on microgrids, Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered regulators to develop community utilities that rely on local power sources, known as Community Choice Aggregations (CCAs). CCAs are a key component of the Governor’s “Reforming the Energy Vision” proceeding that’s expected to bring microgrids into the mainstream.
Offering a carrot rather than a stick, the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) established the “NY Prize community microgrid competition.” The original plan was to fund 30 microgrid community feasibility studies, but after an overwhelming response, 83 winners were chosen.
Utilities in New York are getting in on the action too. The New York Power Authority, the nation’s largest state owned electric utility, laid out a new strategy to create a “reimagined” electric grid that focuses on microgrids and local generation in their Strategic Vision 2014 – 2019. And Consolidated Edison, one of the nation’s oldest and largest utilities, agreed in February 2014 to review microgrids as a grid resiliency measure as part of a settlement with a group of nonprofits.
A few states, including our nation’s capital, are behind in implementation, but are at least starting the conversation through research and investigation:
- Washington, DC: The Public Service Commission launched an investigation into grid modernization technologies, with a workshop scheduled for September 2015. As part of the initiative, the federal government’s General Services Administration is considering a microgrid and advanced energy district for Washington’s central downtown core.
- Maryland: Governor Martin O’Malley’s microgrid task force released a detailed strategy in mid-2014 that recommends developing a state grant program to foster microgrids, and allowing utilities to develop special public purpose microgrids.
- New Hampshire: A 10-year energy strategy issued by the state Office of Energy & Planning recommended that the Public Utilities Commission investigate grid modernization. As a result, the PUC issued a request for comments on grid modernization. After comments are collected, staff will create a scoping document to decide what to focus on. We’re hoping microgrids will be included.
There you have it—the 411 on microgrids state by state. We applaud these states for their leadership. Together, we’ll usher in a new era of grid resiliency and reliability. As solar microgrid leaders, we at Standard Solar are excited to be part of the solution.
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