Microgrids: What Every City Should Know

Cities are at the forefront of the national conversation about climate change. Increasingly, elected officials and city residents are finding ways to deploy more clean energy and reduce their carbon footprints. They are also looking for ways to reduce the risks that climate change poses to life and property, both today and into the future. Microgrids can help cities and businesses increase resilience, reduce emissions, and achieve other policy goals such as brownfield redevelopment or smart city implementation. This brief seeks to introduce microgrids as a potential solution to local challenges, describe current financial and legal barriers, and outline the role that local governments can play. A deeper exploration of several of these issues is available in the C2ES report “Microgrid Momentum: Building Efficient, Resilient Power.”

Key Takeaways

  • Microgrids currently provide a tiny fraction of U.S. electricity, but their capacity is expected to more than double in the next three years.
  • Each microgrid’s unique combination of power source, customer, geography, and market can make financing these projects a challenge.
  • Microgrids offer cities the opportunity to deploy more zero-emission electricity sources.
  • Microgrids can make use of energy that would otherwise be lost.
  • Local governments can support micro grid technologies by setting the policy environment, supporting project development, and participating in development of projects.