What Does a Joe Biden Presidency Mean for Microgrids?

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Microgrids, already growing in demand because of wildfires, hurricanes, the pandemic and energy equity issues, are likely to soon experience another boost — the climate policies of President-elect Joe Biden.

Biden

Joe Biden, US President-Elect

Biden’s “Plan for a Clean Energy Revolution and Environmental Justice” makes several pledges that could influence the microgrid market:

  • A “historic investment” of $1.7 trillion in clean energy, climate research and innovation over the next decade
  • Incentives for rapid deployment of clean energy innovations across the economy, especially in communities impacted by climate change
  • Spending by federal facilities on clean energy resilience
  • The linking of environmental justice to energy planning

“With his shift in priorities to a lower carbon energy future and away from propping up various aspects of the fossil fuel industry, the election of Joe Biden as president can only help microgrids – especially those incorporating renewable energy. Rather than focused on dated arguments pitting the economy against the environment, Biden buys into the value proposition that new clean energy technologies are the wave of the future,” said Peter Asmus, research director for Guidehouse Research.

Congressional Democrats already have signaled their support for microgrids in the “Moving Forward Act,” legislation introduced in June that specifically named microgrids as part of its $1.7 trillion infrastructure proposal. The legislation would offer financial and technical assistance, grant programs, and feasibility studies for microgrids, as well as various incentives for distributed energy resources.

In addition, Reps. Nanette Diaz Barragán from California and Yvette Clarke from New York recently introduced the Energy Resilient Communities Act, which would specifically provide $1.5 billion in grants for clean energy microgrids. 

All eyes on Georgia

Exactly what will become law remains highly uncertain. One of the key wildcards remains the outcome of two Senate runoff elections in Georgia scheduled for January. The special election will determine whether Biden’s party — the Democrats — control both the House and Senate, giving Biden better ability to usher through legislation.

Still microgrid supporters are buoyed by the prospect of a federal government that again uses its platform to back clean energy. In addition, they note that  microgrids tend to enjoy a space outside the bipartisan divide. Research by the Civil Society Institute, a Massachusetts think tank, found that Democrat and Republican voters are aligned in their support of microgrids, once the technology is explained to them. 

Of course a good deal hangs on the outcome of the Senate races in Georgia, but let’s assume the Republicans maintain control.  In that case, I think we can be cautiously optimistic, politically,” said Peter Kelly-Detwiler, principal, NorthBridge Energy Partners. “The beauty of microgrids is they are all about reliability and resilience – something that’s pretty bi-partisan – in the face of increasingly challenging weather events.  They are also solid economic development tools and can obviously include significant amounts of sustainable technologies, principally solar and batteries.”

Microgrids: Child of competitive markets

Microgrids evolved out of rules that opened competition in electricity markets two decades ago — and have continued to be refined by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. The rules have created more consumer choice, principles historically supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

 “With FERC Order 2222 as an example, the opening up of markets is not really an issue pitting right versus left,” said Asmus. “There is emerging consensus that empowering consumers to become prosumers is the way to go, along with tighter integration of wholesale and retail markets. Renewable and resilient power systems enjoy wide support among all voters.”

Let us know your thoughts on microgrid policy! Join us November 19 at Microgrid 2020 Global for interactive polling and an exciting policy discussion 11 am to noon ET. Register here. Note: Space is limited on the platform so we encourge you to register soon.

Several environmental and clean energy groups issued statements in recent days heralding the Biden win.  

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Gina McCarthy, President and CEO of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said: Joe Biden’s climate plan is the strongest we have ever seen from any president before him.”

Kelly Speakes-Backman, CEO of the US Energy Storage Association: “By electing Joe Biden as President of the United States of America, Americans have sent the signal to accelerate the path forward toward a clean energy economy. We expect to see strong support from the new administration focused on decarbonization of the electric and transportation sectors, which will further drive the deployment of energy storage.”

Over the last four years, U.S. cities, states and businesses have worked together to make progress on climate change, even without federal leadership. Now, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach with national, state and local leaders pulling together for a low-carbon economy, powered by equitable and sustainable growth. These leaders should urge Congress to join the national effort.

Andrew Steer, President & CEO, World Resources Institute: “Over the last four years, U.S. cities, states and businesses have worked together to make progress on climate change, even without federal leadership. Now, we need an all-hands-on-deck approach with national, state and local leaders pulling together for a low-carbon economy, powered by equitable and sustainable growth. These leaders should urge Congress to join the national effort.”

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Elisa Wood About Elisa Wood

Elisa Wood is the chief editor of MicrogridKnowledge.com. She has been writing about energy for more than two decades for top industry publications. Her work also has been picked up by CNN, the New York Times, Reuters, the Wall Street Journal Online and the Washington Post.

Comments

  1. “Research by the Civil Society Institute, a Massachusetts think tank, found that Democrat and Republican voters are aligned in their support of microgrids, once the technology is explained to them. ”

    I imagine there was a time when there were plenty of folks that said, “Horseless carriage, never catch on.” Make it cheap enough, long term cost effective enough, it becomes the ‘appliance’ one can’t do without.

    ” “With FERC Order 2222 as an example, the opening up of markets is not really an issue pitting right versus left,” said Asmus. “There is emerging consensus that empowering consumers to become prosumers is the way to go, along with tighter integration of wholesale and retail markets. Renewable and resilient power systems enjoy wide support among all voters.””

    When the electric utility ‘retail’ market has embraced TOU rate spiking and demand charges derived by signing contracts on the energy spot market, it starts to make more sense for ratepayers to have their own system of generation, energy storage and use non-fueled energy generation for as long as they can each day, avoiding carefully crafted price spiking programs from the utilities. When economics takes over for ideologies, this is the technology that will be disruptive, no matter what political wedge one group or another tries to drive between groups of potential adopters.

  2. Isaac Maze-Rothstein says:

    One observation: most microgrids in the United States today rely on natural gas and grid-synchronous diesel generation. While these will become a smaller percent of the total of the next 5 years, microgrids will still be integrating distributed fossil generation in most geographies, with the possible exception of California because of SGIP for short duration outages. I do think Biden’s election is better for DERs within microgrids: solar tariffs can be eliminated bringing PV’s costs in line with global markets, similarly with the steel tariffs that could help with racking. I think more interesting would integrating the Clean Economy Jobs and Innovation Act into a possible infrastructure bill: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/house-bill/4447/text?r=10&s=1. I see this as being the most likely path to directly help microgrids as compared to their underlying assets.

  3. Mahesh P. Bhave says:

    “The beauty of microgrids is they are all about reliability and resilience – something that’s pretty bi-partisan – in the face of increasingly challenging weather events. They are also solid economic development tools and can obviously include significant amounts of sustainable technologies, principally solar and batteries.” — Peter Kelly-Detwiler, principal, NorthBridge Energy Partners.

    Microgrids are next generation “Access” (inherently green, clean) in my view, and not merely for “Reliability” and “Resilience.” The microgrid community is constantly underselling the revolutionary prospects and potential of microgrids. “Grid interaction” of microgrids is also temporary. The discussion ought to be about how to make the “next generation access” commonplace. Like wireless replacing wireline in telecom in first mile.

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