Reliability and Sustainability: Must They be at Odds?

May 23, 2021
Can all microgrids be 100% renewable, 100% reliable and still affordable? This week Microgrid 2021 features a thoughtful and sometimes charged discussion on the topic.

Can all microgrids be 100% renewable, 100% reliable, and still affordable? It’s a question that dogs the microgrid industry as it strives for low carbon energy production but also must guarantee the power will not go out in places like hospitals and water plants. Fossil fuel generators often act as backstops at critical facilities.

This week Microgrid 2021 features a thoughtful and sometimes charged discussion on the topic in a panel: The Green Energy Balancing Act, May 25 at 1 p.m. EST. The issue has come to the fore with bans on fossil fuels instituted in some US cities.

Erik Svanholm of S&C Electric summed up the plight that microgrid companies face: 

“We don’t want to make a bridge fuel a permanent bridge to nowhere. But at the other end of the spectrum, I worry that simply having blanket bans on things like natural gas for everything everywhere starting today essentially is cutting off some of our ability to provide local resilience for energy today.”

Svanholm, who is S&C’s vice president, non-wires alternatives, suggests a more nuanced approach to phasing out natural gas, including limiting it to emergency use and setting a cap on the size of new generators so that they are local and specific to particular facilities.

The panelists, who do not all agree on the way forward, represent the breadth of thought on this tug-of-war issue. You can watch the video, The Green Energy Balancing Act: How Microgrids Steady the Scale, on Microgrid Knowledge.

Here is this week’s agenda.

May 25, 11 to 12 p.m.

Microgrids as Sustainability Heroes

The story of three microgrids helping their hosts reach sustainability or renewable energy goals. How can you employ a microgrid to do the same for you? (Webinar)

Moderator: Jacqueline DeRosa, Vice President, Battery Energy Storage Systems – Ameresco


  • Chris Ball, Senior Manager, Microgrids, Bloom Energy, “Green and Gold Hydrogen Microgrids”
  • Norm Campbell, Manager, Federal Markets, Go Electric, “Remote Microgrids: Maximizing Solar and Removing Diesel Generators”
  • Hugh McDermott, Senior Vice President of Business Development & Sales, ESS, “Going With the Flow: Long-Duration Energy Storage Revolutionizing Patagonia”

May 25, 12 to 1 p.m.

Network with Microgrid Solutions Experts

Customize your agenda, check out the Microgrid Resources Library, or visit our exhibitor hall, where you can meet one-on-one with over 35 microgrid solutions experts.

May 25, 12:15 to 1 p.m.

Workshop: Configuring Distributed Generation Resources into an Optimal Microgrid Solution

The demands of our digital economy, coupled with escalating consequences of climate change, are creating more significant risks for business owners dependent on reliable electricity. As these challenges increase, it’s clear that outdated utility grids are not up to the challenges.

Fortunately, there are multiple options for sourcing electricity. Distributed generation technologies offer a clear path forward for those concerned about stable electricity supply. One solution rapidly gaining acceptance is the microgrid. Microgrids enable businesses to take control of their own specific electricity needs while dramatically improving reliability and, often, reducing costs.

Moderator: Kevin Normandeau, Publisher, Microgrid Knowledge


  • Ryan De La Cruz, Director of Business Development, Ecom-Energy, Inc.
  • Nirupama Prakash Kumar, Sr. Product Manager – Microgrids, Bloom Energy

May 25, 1 to 2:15 p.m.

The Green Energy Balancing Act: How Microgrids Steady the Scale

The world is looking for ways to reduce greenhouse gases and increase clean energy. Are these goals being achieved? What stands in the way? Will intermittent resources like wind and solar jeopardize grid reliability? How can microgrids help? (Panel discussion)

Moderator: Matt Roberts, Director of Marketing and Communications, SimpliPhi Power


  • Lorraine Akiba, President/CEO, LHA Ventures and former Commissioner, Hawaii PUC
  • Michael Bakas, Executive Vice President, Ameresco
  • Hunter Lovins, President and Founder of Natural Capital Solutions
  • Jason Marenda, Project Manager, DER and Renewables, POWER Engineers
  • Erik Svanholm, Vice President, Non-Wires Alternatives, S&C

May 27, 11 to 12 p.m.

Choosing the Right Resources for Your Microgrid

Microgrid Knowledge editors interview the experts: How do you choose the right mix of generation resources for your microgrid? What is the upside and downside of each? What role do they play in your microgrid? A look at renewable energy, fossil fuels, fuel cells, energy storage and electric vehicles within microgrids.

Interviews with:

  • Michael Boswell, Vice President, Distributed Generation Projects, Concord Engineering
  • John Glassmire, Senior Advisor, Grid Edge Solutions, Hitachi ABB Power Grids; and Scott Gibson, Project Manager, Snohomish County PUD
  • Klaus Payrhuber, Strategic Product Development Manager, INNIO Jenbacher
  • Tim Victor, Analyst, Scale Microgrid Solutions

May 12 to 1 p.m.

Network with Microgrid Solutions Experts

Visit the Microgrid Resources Library, where you can access dozens of free reports and white papers to help you plan your microgrid strategy or swing by the exhibitor hall and request a 1 on 1 meeting with any of 35+ microgrid solutions experts.

May 27, 12:15 to 1 p.m.

Workshop: Using Real-Time Dynamic Modeling for Microgrid Optimization, Control and Resilience

With ongoing weather disruptions and natural disasters coupled with the increasing complexity of power grids and demand for renewable energy sources, power grid infrastructure is facing closer scrutiny. This has presented an opportunity for AI technologies like real-time dynamic modeling to deliver autonomous grid management of grid assets during both normal operations and emergencies.

Moderator: Kevin Normandeau, Publisher, Microgrid Knowledge


  • Sean McEvoy, SVP Business Development, Veritone
  • Ryan Bazler, VP Marketing, aiWARE, Veritone

May 27, 1 to 2 p.m.

What’s Next in Microgrid Tech?

Three presentations on technology and engineering innovations that bring greater efficiency, lower emissions or other environmental benefits to microgrids. (Webinar)

Moderator: Kay Aikin, CEO, Dynamic Grid


  • Kevin Chen, Manager, Grid Strategy & Analytics in Smart Grid and Emerging Technology, ComEd, “Advanced Technologies for Resilient and Sustainable Grid”
  • Jaimie Hamilton, Technical Leader, Energy Management Business, Cummins, “Transforming Microgrids with Hydrogen”
  • David Theodore, Co-Founder and CTO, Climate Resilient Internet, “The Internet and Microgrids”

We welcome you to register for these sessions, free of charge, through June 3. Please peruse the agenda and speaker roster. You are welcome to attend all sessions or choose those that most interest you.

Microgrid 2021 is designed for businesses, government agencies, institutions, municipalities and communities — or anyone interested in learning how a microgrid will improve their operation.

The event is hosted by Microgrid Knowledge, the world’s largest news site devoted to all things microgrid.

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

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