Microgrids: an opportunity to move the lines

In terms of energy governance, each country has its own equation to solve, defined by the level of commitment of local authorities and municipalities, on one hand, and by the structure of the actors, more or less national and monopolistic, on the other hand.

In Germany, Switzerland and Sweden, for example, it is common to meet actors whose scope of action is a city or an urban metropolis. Sometimes the same municipal or local utility combines the distribution of electricity, gas, water, heat and even manage a fibre optic network. The situation seems ideal but I often found, in this type of business, very verticalized organization where transversal exchanges between teams are rare, common projects even more.

The evolution of energy systems pushes for a decompartmentalization of these entities that will have to build and manage more and more interaction between themselves.

In the frequent case of markets structured around major national or regional actors (electricity network operators, water, gas), this same evolution of energy systems creates areas of frequent and potentially very strong frictions between local optimization and performance needs, expressed, for example, by cities, and overall optimization of distribution networks needs.

In such configurations, the microgrids appear for cities, as a way around what they experience as the inertia of large distribution system operators: many consider establishing local energy operators to respond to their expectations. This “dream” is, for them, more or less easily accessible according to regulations.

Nevertheless, in all countries, the emergence of microgrids is experienced in terms of opportunity by cities and threat by network operators. What a pity!

Ultimately, all players will loose: the cities by being significantly behind in their energy transition, system operators by losing certain prerogatives and, in some cases, a share of activity.

Should it not be better to investigate the coexistence of challenges raised by cities and by network operators in collaborative local structures yet to be invented. Some experiments are already providing lines of thought to imagine them?

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