Are Neighborhood Microgrids and Utility Collaboration the Future of the Industry?

April 10, 2023
That’s what Rob Bennett, CEO of BlockEnergy, says he sees coming.

While much of the microgrid industry is focused on growth in commercial, campus and military applications, BlockEnergy sees another market segment ripe for microgrid deployment – new residential communities.

Only a few microgrid companies work in this space, in part because they fear challenges from utilities, some of which see microgrids as a threat.

But utility perceptions of microgrids are shifting and they will play a big role in the technology’s future, said Rob Bennett, CEO of BlockEnergy, who is an engineer and former utility executive. BlockEnergy, founded as Emera Technologies, has discovered a way to work collaboratively with utilities.

Why residential microgrids?

Elisa Wood, editor in chief of Microgrid Knowledge, recently interviewed Bennett as a lead up to Microgrid 2023. Bennett said that his company is focused on bringing microgrid technology to new residential communities because it’s the area where he feels they can have the biggest impact.

Between housing booms and the expected influx of electric vehicles, utilities need solutions to meet the extraordinary level of electrification that’s happening – and he’s convinced that microgrid technology is that solution.

According to Bennett, we need solutions that don’t require rebuilding massive parts of our energy infrastructure because “we cannot rebuild it fast enough to keep up with our desire and need to electrify to get to a cleaner energy future.”

Microgrids as grid assets

In BlockEnergy’s view, battery and solar-centric microgrids are just another dispatchable asset that the utility can control.

“We’re not encouraging people to go tear up perfectly good power infrastructure,” Bennett said.

He added that the most economic thing to do is build new assets in a future forward way, using the most advanced technology integrated into the power system.

Bennett said that the technologies are becoming so cost effective, and the reliability and capability improving so quickly, that in his mind there’s no question that microgrids are a low cost way to meet load growth in communities across the country.

Learn more about neighborhood and utility microgrids at Microgrid 2023: Lights On!, which will be held May 16-17 in Anaheim, California.  BlockEnergy will participate in a panel Fending Off Climate Disasters with Microgrids.

About the Author

Kathy Hitchens | Special Projects Editor

I work as a writer and special projects editor for Microgrid Knowledge. I have over 30 years of writing experience, working with a variety of companies in the renewable energy, electric vehicle and utility sector, as well as those in the entertainment, education, and financial industries. I have a BFA in Media Arts from the University of Arizona and a MBA from the University of Denver.

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