NEMA Says Microgrids are Essential to Future Electric Grid

September 06, 2016 by Jeff Shepard

A new report from the National Electrical Manufacturing Association (NEMA), Powering Microgrids for the 21st-Century Electrical System, introduces the concept of microgrids as an integral component of the power delivery system of the twenty-first century. While microgrids were once viewed as islanded systems of generation and load, valued mostly for their ability to disconnect from the grid and serve individual customer facilities during outages, this report explains how and why they are now seen as part of distribution system operations, interacting with the distribution grid through advanced control and distribution management systems.

"This report explains the developments we're currently seeing in energy distribution systems and lays out a vision for the future in which microgrids are an essential part of the larger electrical infrastructure across the United States," said Steve Griffith, an industry director at NEMA. "Microgrids will play a major role in grid modernization in an evolving regulatory framework."

This report first presents the structure of the electric power grid and explains the evolution of the distribution grid from a passive to an active one. Later, it discusses the business case for microgrids; provides general information related to the cost of components and systems; presents the many technological advances that will facilitate the deployment of microgrids; and discusses ongoing standardization efforts in distributed energy resources and microgrids. Finally, the report articulates a vision for the future of microgrids, based on the assumption that the technology and the regulatory framework continue to evolve, and offers a favorable context for their accelerated deployment.

NEMA MGRD 1-2016 Powering Microgrids for the 21st-Century Electrical System is available at no cost on the NEMA website.