Maryland’s Microgrid Policy: Building a Market, Not Giving Away Money

April 16, 2015
Maryland’s microgrid policy is about markets — particularly its position within the PJM Interconnection — not about giving out large grants.

“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.

While California, Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York, are offering tens of millions to compete for microgrid business, Maryland is taking a different route.

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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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.

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