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Microgrids are often the only reliable source of electricity available to those in frontier markets, communities that lack adequate infrastructure to support traditional centralised power generation, transmission and distribution systems. However, microgrids also have the potential to improve lives, help mitigate climate change and make lives better overall. Here’s how they can do just that!

What are Microgrids?

A microgrid is a local energy system that combines electricity generation, storage and load management with distributed energy resources (DERs) – including renewables and energy efficiency measures – for delivery into a single local grid or connected to a utility grid. These grids allow communities greater control over their energy choices by balancing local supply and demand. They are also able to connect customers directly through community-wide DER. For example, solar power generated by one household can be stored in a battery for use at another house’s meter.

Why Are Microgrids Critical?

The use of microgrid technology can help to address many of these pressing issues. In areas without reliable energy sources, microgrids allow for small-scale generation and distribution systems that can operate independently from larger power grids. This makes it possible for communities and individuals that might otherwise be left out of central electricity networks to access affordable, stable and sustainable sources of power.

How Do We Bring Power to Those Who Need It Most?

It’s one thing to talk about bringing power—through microgrids—to people living in poverty. It’s another thing altogether to create and deliver a solution that is both effective and replicable. For example, with 350 million households lacking access to electricity worldwide and 100 million households without grid electricity entirely (pdf), it would be easy for investors, governments and social entrepreneurs alike to simply jump into any number of frontiers markets without putting a lot of thought into whether their particular model can work there.

How Does the Government Play a Role?

Governments can influence microgrid development by defining what constitutes a microgrid—Is it a single wind turbine? A decentralized generation system with batteries? Both? Governments also have a role to play in making microgrids easier and less expensive to deploy. For example, regulations and fees related to distributed generation can discourage private sector investment and make it harder for clean energy technologies like solar PV or wind energy systems to compete against fossil fuels.

Why Should I Care About This?

In developing economies, microgrid solutions have tremendous potential to bring reliable energy where it is needed most. Even in developed countries like Germany and Australia, microgrids hold considerable benefits for those living off-grid or with unreliable sources of power. In frontier markets like Africa and India, however – where only 15% and 9% of people have access to electricity respectively – microgrid solutions can transform entire communities.


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