“We want you in our state,” Kyle Haas, a Maryland energy policy manager told a room full of microgrid developers last week in Washington, D.C. “I want to bring your company to Maryland.”
But don’t expect any grant money – or much anyway – to sweeten the pot.
With Republican Gov. Larry Hogan now at the helm, the Maryland Energy Administration is trying to sell its ability to build markets, particularly since its within the distributed energy-friendly PJM Interconnection.
Haas, along with Eric Coffman of the Montgomery County Office of Energy and Sustainability, offered insight into how they are growing the state’s microgrid market at the Military and Government Microgrids Summit in Arlington Virginia, sponsored last week by S&C Electric.
“My goal is that I never have to design another grant program again,” Haas said.
Instead, he said Maryland wants to foster a market that becomes an incentive in itself. Maryland consumers have made clear that they want a clean and resilient energy system, especially during public discourse on the proposed Pepco/Exelon merger. Haas sees his job as lining up that demand with what microgrid developers offer.
Concern exists that microgrids are expensive. But that’s largely because many of their benefits have yet to be monetized. If the benefits are stacked – the value added together of ancillary services, generation, environmental attributes etc. – a difference picture emerges, according to Haas.
For example, outages cost the U.S billions of dollars in real tangible monies, he said. “When people say it is hard to monetize resiliency…I question whether we are working hard enough to do that.”
Maryland also plans to try to reduce the soft costs for developers, making it easier for them to navigate permitting and public service commission approvals.
Can Maryland’s free market, with few grants, draw in microgrid developers?
Haas didn’t have to point far for evidence. Coffman, sitting next to him on the stage, said that Montgomery County has issued a solicitation for microgrids to serve three large facilities (one is 5 MW). It did so without any state incentive money.
Montgomery County received a healthy 14 bids, and has shortlisted six projects, whose proposals are due April 23.
Coffman described Montgomery County as an example of the kind of microgrid market we will see more and more of. “I am your customer of the future. I’m not running large military bases. I am running pocket facilities that need continuous, 100 percent reliable high quality power.”
Can Maryland develop a free market for microgrids when states like New York are offering $40 million to attract the industry — especially during this nascent market stage? Let us know what you think, readers.
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