What We Learned from the Speaker Submissions for Microgrid 2023

Jan. 18, 2023
Every year Microgrid Knowledge issues a call for speakers for its annual conference. This gives us content for the event but also insight into the latest trends and projects.

When I read this year’s speaker submissions for Microgrid Knowledge’s annual conference, it occurred to me that we do not adequately define what microgrids do.

We say that they provide backup power, reduce energy costs, improve sustainability and boost the grid.

All true, but what they really do is solve a host of societal problems. Here’s a short list of problems they solve, often during or just after disasters, but, in some cases, on a regular basis:

  • Serve as the lynchpin to ensure communities have water.

  • Sustain the production and distribution of food.

  • Keep economic activity going.

  • Ensure national security by supporting military operations.

  • Keep hospitals open.

Microgrids solve for “x” when and where power is critically needed.

That’s one thought I had after reading the submissions we received through our call for speakers for Microgrid 2023.

My other thought was that the microgrid industry is innovating at an exciting clip, with an eye toward new fuels such as hydrogen, transactive energy, artificial intelligence (AI), more sophisticated controllers and extracting greater value from the grid connection.

Here are some of the submissions that caught my eye. Disclaimer: These are not necessarily the proposals that will be accepted. The applications are now being scored by a 26-member task force of industry experts.

Going all the way off grid

It’s not surprising to find off-grid microgrids on far-flung islands or mountaintops. But California, New Jersey, New York City? Speakers want to continue this discussion that first began at Microgrid California in 2021. Two sessions proposed are:

  • Wireless: Getting off the Grid

  • Powering 100% of Industrial Facilities with DERs: No Grid Needed.

Government policy and the Inflation Reduction Act

We’re planning a special panel on microgrid policy in California, which continues to be one of the most active states in the nation when it comes to microgrids. In addition, we received multiple speaker proposals about federal policy, including the new tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act, which will be a big topic of conversation at the event.

Infrastructure and microgrids

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is another new federal law that we will delve into. Microgrids are an important part of the era of reconstruction emerging in the US. One example is New York’s John F. Kennedy Airport’s new Terminal One, a $9.5 billion project that will include a microgrid to provide 99.99%+ resilient and reliable operation, long-term cost savings, and an initial 34% reduction in greenhouse gases with an expected 100% reduction over eight years.

Utilities are problem-solving with microgrids

For the most part, utilities have been slow to adopt microgrids, often because of confusion over how to pay for them within regulatory constraints.

But several utilities offered interesting proposals this year. Arizona Public Service has developed a shared value and shared cost model for microgrids. Eversource proposed a session on a “Utility Owned Microgrid for Resiliency and Non-Wires Alternative Application” for the tip of Cape Cod. Pacific Gas & Electric is working on hybrid stand-alone power systems for wildfire mitigation. Pepco is partnering with Emera Technology and a Maryland green housing initiative to demonstrate microgrids for low- to moderate-income neighborhoods.

Microgrids for good

Lack of energy equity is another problem that the microgrid industry appears keen to solve. From creating community “resilience hubs” — places of safety during disasters for low- to moderate-income neighborhoods — to electrifying a displaced community of 2,500 families in Kenya’s northern desert, microgridders are trying to help those most in need. 

Forward thinking microgrids

Kudos to the folks who offered the session: “Transactive Energy Tariffs: A New Path to Market for Microgrids.” It’s an arcane but important topic that we first discussed at Microgrid 2018 in Chicago. We also received submissions about AI and microgrids.

Getting the most from microgrids

Several proposed titles illustrate the increasing sophistication of microgrid operation and use. Here are a few:

  • Democratizing Microgrids with Real-Time Monitoring and Analytics.

  • How to Operate Energy Systems at Peak Efficiency through Microgrid Controllers.

  • Real World Lessons in Building DC Microgrids with Solar, Battery Energy Storage and Fuel Cells.

  • Microgrids: Before, During and After the Storm … How Do Data and Analytics Play a Role?

  • Solving Your Sustainability Challenges with Microgrids.

  • Microgrid Monetization – How to Get it Done. A Customer Perspective.

We also received multiple entries about microgrids and electrification, which isn’t surprising considering that electric vehicles (EVs) and microgrids are a natural pairing. They include “Microgrids as a Tool to Enable EV Charging” and “How Do EVs Fit into a Vehicle-to-Building Microgrid?​”

If I didn’t list your application here, it doesn’t mean I didn’t find it intriguing. I’d like to keep describing the entries, but there are too many. In all, we received 118 ideas that promise to make Microgrid 2023 one of our most thought-provoking events yet. Thank you to all who submitted applications.

Register today for Microgrid Knowledge 2023: Lights On!

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 RealEnergyWriters.com, 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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