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Smart Grid in America and Europe (Part II)

Past accomplishments and future plans.

Fortnightly Magazine - February 2011

continue until 2013, targets large scale integration of distributed and renewable energy sources. 40 Demonstration projects in Germany, Denmark, Italy, Portugal, and Spain pull together a variety of generation sources such as cogeneration, photovoltaics, and battery storage to create microgrids. 41 The EEGI recently issued a report titled Roadmap 2010-18 and Detailed Implementation Plan 2010-12 . The report contains R&D and deployment tasks for more customer participation and integrated communication on the distribution level. Greater communication at the distribution level enables consumers to meet their demand via distributed generation from renewables instead of depending on central power plants. 42 Despite these R&D projects, a study showed that many E.U. member states’ regulatory frameworks and policies do not match the level of distributed-generation penetration needed to meet the long-term targets. 43 

Despite their importance, there are not as many distributed generation and microgrid demonstration projects in the U.S. as in the E.U. 44 It is unsurprising that in 2007 only 1.4 percent of grid capacity was from grid connected distributed generation and only 0.6 percent of total capacity was from renewables. 45 In 2009, the DOE’s Renewable and Distributed Systems Integration Program selected nine demonstration projects. Each project should demonstrate a 15 percent peak load reduction on a distribution feeder. California’s two projects examine microgrids, energy storage, and automated distribution control. Other states are experimenting with transmission intermittency management, hydro, solar thermal, waste heat recovery systems, photovoltaics, gas fired generators, and microturbines. 46 The best known U.S. microgrids research is conducted by the Consortium for Electric Reliability Technology Solutions project on microgrid islanding. 47 States however encourage development of distributed generation and microgrids by passing interconnection rules for distributed resources. In a 2008 study, the Environmental Protection Agency determined that 27 states had neutral or “favorable” standards depending on the project site limits, application approval rate, existence of standard forms, and the amount of study fees. 48

A comparison of the efforts shows that the E.U. may place more emphasis on distributed generation and microgrids due to the success of several member states. For example, Denmark already receives 40 percent of its electricity from wind. Many of Denmark’s wind turbines only generate 50 kilowatts. Denmark is now focusing on off-shore wind and replacing smaller turbines with larger more efficient ones. Similarly, the Netherlands and Finland generate 40 percent of their electricity from wind. In contrast, Maine gets approximately 34 percent of its electricity from distributed generation. 49 

Another difference between the E.U. and the U.S. is their view of the benefits availed by distributed generation and microgrids. The E.U. perceives that reliability can come from less dependence on large generators and the regional and national grid because microgrids can maintain service by islanding during outages in the large systems. 50 The U.S. focuses more on reliability benefits from technology tools for sensors, greater automation, and monitoring. 51 These types of technology can make distributed generation more flexible and reliable, but they have the same benefits for generation and transmission alike. It might be easier for U.S. federal programs to articulate the