DOE looks to make microgrids ‘essential building blocks’

Oct. 28, 2022
The US DOE plans to issue a road map for microgrids to become a pivotal part of the future grid.

The US Department of Energy (DOE) is working on six strategies to make microgrids “essential building blocks” of future electric delivery.

The strategies are explained in a series of draft white papers being floated by the Office of Electricity Microgrids R&D (MGRD) Program.

With the intent to ultimately create a microgrid road map, the DOE is seeking comment from the public on the white papers by Nov. 24.

The first paper, an overview of the strategy, says that distributed energy resources (DERs) may make up 30%-50% of electricity generation capacity in 10 years, up from 15% today. 

That many DERs cannot readily be integrated into the existing grid, which is based on centralized architectures. Microgrids, however, can help.

“One option to effectively integrate the increasing number of distributed assets, while simultaneously increasing reliability and resilience, is to use microgrids as a fundamental building block of system planning and operations,” the paper said.

With the overarching goal of improving energy resilience, decarbonization and cost reduction, microgrids will operate in various control architectures to support the bulk power grid, achieve local economic and operational objectives, and support critical end-use loads where the grid is not available, the paper said. 

At this point the impact of microgrids is still small. They make up 0.2% of electricity. But they experienced significant growth in recent years — from relatively flat growth in 2013-2016 to growth of 62%-68% per year from 2016-2019, according to the paper. Citing Guidehouse, the paper said global microgrid capacity is expected to reach 19,888.8 MW by 2028, up from 3,480.5 MW in 2019. 

The DOE plans to create a research and development program that will initially benefit single microgrids. But over the longer term — about 10 years — the program will focus more on networked microgrids and their role on the grid.

The white papers look at the gaps and opportunities for the technology with a 10-year timeframe. The papers and their lead authors are:

  1. Program Vision, Objectives, and R&D Targets in 5 and 10 years 
  • Summer Ferreira, Sandia National Laboratories 
  • Murali Baggu, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
  1. T&D Co-simulation of Microgrid Impacts and Benefits
  • Kevin Schneider, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory 
  • Karthikeyan Balasubramaniam, Argonne National Laboratory 
  1. Building Blocks for Microgrids
  • Chen-Ching Liu, Virginia Tech 
  • Madhu Chinthavali, Oak Ridge National Laboratory 
  • Rob Hovsapian, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
  1. Microgrids as a Building Block for Future Grids
  • Vaibhav Donde, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory 
  • Annabelle Pratt, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
  1. Advanced Microgrid Control and Protection
  • Ben Ollis, Oak Ridge National Laboratory 
  • Matt Reno, Sandia National Laboratories 
  1. Integrated Models and Tools for Microgrid Planning and Designs with Operations
  • Russell Bent, Los Alamos National Laboratory 
  • Ravindra Singh, Argonne National Laboratory 
  1. Enabling Regulatory and Business Models for Broad Microgrid Deployment
  • Robert Jeffers, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
  • Owen Zinaman, National Renewable Energy Laboratory 
  • Joseph Eto, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory 

Comments on the papers can be submitted to Dan Ton, program manager of MGRD, [email protected]

About the Author

Elisa Wood | Editor-in-Chief

Elisa Wood is an award-winning writer and editor who specializes in the energy industry. She is chief editor and co-founder of Microgrid Knowledge and serves as co-host of the publication’s popular conference series. She also co-founded, where she continues to lead a team of energy writers who produce content for energy companies and advocacy organizations.

She has been writing about energy for more than two decades and is published widely. Her work can be found in prominent energy business journals as well as mainstream publications. She has been quoted by NPR, the Wall Street Journal and other notable media outlets.

“For an especially readable voice in the industry, the most consistent interpreter across these years has been the energy journalist Elisa Wood, whose Microgrid Knowledge (and conference) has aggregated more stories better than any other feed of its time,” wrote Malcolm McCullough, in the book, Downtime on the Microgrid, published by MIT Press in 2020.

Twitter: @ElisaWood

LinkedIn: Elisa Wood

Facebook:  Microgrids


Designing Microgrids: Evaluating Parameters for Reliable, Cost-Effective and Optimized Power Solutions

Dec. 7, 2023
Shawn Dalke electrical engineer at Mesa Solutions discusses load profiles and power sources for microgrids.

Get the full report.

Solving your energy problems has never been easier for agriculture and food processors

In this white paper, you'll earn what microgrids are, how they work, how they’re funded and how they can benefit food processors and the wider agriculture industry.