Microgrids – Benefits, Models, Barriers and Suggested Policy Initiatives for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

As cities and states seek to improve the resilience, reliability, and efficiency of the electric grid in the face of increasingly severe storms and other emerging threats, microgrids offer policy makers, elected leaders and the communities they serve an additional tool with which to address these challenges. 

In addition to improving grid resilience, well-designed microgrids have the potential to increase deployment of low- and no-carbon energy generation sources, reduce energy costs for microgrid participants, provide other valuable services to the macrogrid and increase demand for Massachusetts based clean energy and “grid edge” technology developers.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (MassCEC) commissioned Microgrids – Benefits, Models, Barriers and Suggested Policy Initiatives for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to better understand the attributes, benefits, business development models and barriers to microgrid deployment here in the Commonwealth.  MassCEC also sought to better synchronize our understanding of microgrids with the Massachusetts’ Department of Public Utilities Grid Modernization Proceedings. Because of the cross-cutting nature of the topic, recommendations on microgrids in the report are of interest to and directed at several state agencies.

The report focuses on the benefits of microgrids and distinguishes their value from stand-alone distributed energy resources.  The report identifies several primary benefits:  the ability to economically provide electricity to critical loads within the microgrid, and to improve power quality, flexibility and reliability by integrating and optimizing various sources of energy

The report also provides information on a wide variety of microgrid pilots and programs occurring in the United States, Europe, and developing markets, while evaluating their various advantages.  To address potential conflicts with traditional distribution utility business models, the report examined four microgrid ownership/business model concepts, some of which are currently in use or are being piloted.  

Massachusetts, which is now in the midst of updating its distribution grid network, preparing for climate change and advancing the deployment of clean and renewable energy systems, is well-positioned to take advantage of what microgrids offer.

MassCEC would like to thank the more than 40 individuals who participated in microgrid stakeholder discussions; your thoughtful participation in those discussions helped shape this report.  MassCEC would also like to acknowledge DNV GL and Peregrine Energy Group for completing the study behalf of MassCEC.

Please contact grid@masscec.com if you have questions about the report, or about MassCEC’s microgrid work.