MGK Editor's Take: Why the Grid and Microgrids Still Need Each Other

Oct. 18, 2023
This editor is all about the microgrids and distributed energy resources (DERs), but even a true believer like myself accepts that the main grid is a wonderful, useful invention that still has much to give.

No matter how advantageous the freedom of individualism sounds, a decentralized movement still needs a unifying connection to truly flourish.

If you think I’m talking about politics or people, you’d be wrong. This editor is all about the microgrids and distributed energy resources (DERs), but even a true believer like myself accepts that the main grid is a wonderful, useful invention that still has much to give.

Virtual power plants (VPP) — the technology to bring a bunch of DERs together and deliver capacity bidirectionally back into the utility grid — opens a world of opportunity for decentralized energy resources such as pieces of a microgrid. The future implementation of FERC Order 2222 requiring grid operators to allow aggregated DERs into markets also will heighten resiliency options to deal with peak demand challenges as the world gets more and more electrified, driving load ever higher.

Our story by Kathy Hitchens shows this VPP movement is accelerating all over the globe, from Western Australia to the United States. VPPs also help make the financial and interactive grid case for renewable energy deployments, a Western Australia official pointed out.

Last year, I was told by a high-level leader at aggregator firm AutoGrid that DERs and connective VPPs will be a key part of the “future grid. Lots of infrastructure is getting deployed, and we’ll need a layer to bring all those assets together.”

Digital transformation is a cliched term by now, but most cliches are around because they are true. Software and control technologies are not the answer for every challenge with energy infrastructure, but they do unify the whole to be greater than the sum of its parts.

Track news about minigrids in Africa. Subscribe to the free Microgrid Knowledge Newsletter.

About the Author

Rod Walton, Managing Editor | Managing Editor

For Microgrid Knowledge editorial inquiries, please contact Managing Editor Rod Walton at [email protected].

I’ve spent the last 15 years covering the energy industry as a newspaper and trade journalist. I was an energy writer and business editor at the Tulsa World before moving to business-to-business media at PennWell Publishing, which later became Clarion Events, where I covered the electric power industry. I joined Endeavor Business Media in November 2021 to help launch EnergyTech, one of the company’s newest media brands. I joined Microgrid Knowledge in July 2023. 

I earned my Bachelors degree in journalism from the University of Oklahoma. My career stops include the Moore American, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, Wagoner Tribune and Tulsa World, all in Oklahoma . I have been married to Laura for the past 33-plus years and we have four children and one adorable granddaughter. We want the energy transition to make their lives better in the future. 

Microgrid Knowledge and EnergyTech are focused on the mission critical and large-scale energy users and their sustainability and resiliency goals. These include the commercial and industrial sectors, as well as the military, universities, data centers and microgrids. The C&I sectors together account for close to 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the U.S.

Many large-scale energy users such as Fortune 500 companies, and mission-critical users such as military bases, universities, healthcare facilities, public safety and data centers, shifting their energy priorities to reach net-zero carbon goals within the coming decades. These include plans for renewable energy power purchase agreements, but also on-site resiliency projects such as microgrids, combined heat and power, rooftop solar, energy storage, digitalization and building efficiency upgrades.