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Liam Dohn |

Connecticut kicks off microgrid pilot program

On Tuesday, the State of Connecticut held a public meeting to discuss its Microgrid Grant and Loan Pilot Program .

This is the first time I have heard of a utility receiving a legislative mandate to implement microgrid projects in their territory. The State of Connecticut"s goals are clear: they want electricity to be "cheaper, cleaner and more reliable."

For those who don"t know, last year Connecticut got hit by a large storm in August and an early Nor"easter in October. The storms resulted in:

  • Many residents without power for over five days.
  • Residents having a negative perception about the reliability of the state"s electric grid.
  • Disappointment with the actions of the two main utilities in the state: Connecticut Light " Power (CL"P) and United Illuminating (UI).

The result of the uproar was a bill signed by the Governor to improve the emergency preparedness of the state and directing the state"s Department of Energy and Environmental Protection (DEEP) to establish the microgrid program to support distributed energy generation for critical facilities. Of special note to other utilities, the bill also directed the public utilities commission to establish new emergency performance standards -- this is on top of the current requirement for CL"P and UI to submit Emergency Preparedness Plans for review and approval.

This program will be a great case study for microgrids. CL"P and UI are actively engaged with the program by providing developers with clear guidelines, interconnection processes and supporting DEEP with power systems expertise. I expect the projects will be a significant test -- both technically and economically -- for microgrids. State funding is limited to $15 million spread out over approximately 10 projects, so the microgrids will have to be economically viable without an ARRA-like funding cushion. The microgrids must also meet robust technical, operational and safety standards much like a utility.

If microgrids are to coexist within the current utility network we have today, this program will surely root out the unforeseen challenges and benefits to a broader microgrid deployment.

Given the requirement to be "cheaper, cleaner and more reliable," what do you think would be an ideal microgrid demonstration project for the state of Connecticut? (I.e. generation mix, types of critical loads served, ownership structure, etc.)

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