Increasing climate resilience with energy efficient microgrids

Author

Melissa Trimble

Source(s)
Climatelinks
United States Agency for International Development

The increasing threat of climate change highlights the importance of reusable, efficient energy sources and power grid resilience. Severe power outages caused by climate-driven events have become more frequent and disproportionately affect lower- and middle-income countries. The emerging technology of microgrids offers a competitive, practical, and decentralized option. Microgrids provide an alternative to the centralized power grid, with the potential to recover quickly, sustain renewable energy sources, and serve critical locations such as hospitals, water treatment plants, and schools. Microgrids also promote energy efficiency in electrical grids by integrating renewable energy sources. They also increase electricity access, which provides countless benefits, including greater access to higher-quality lighting and technology such as TVs, computers, and the internet.

More research, education, and business development are needed to reach the technical maturity of microgrids, which USAID’s Partnerships for Enhanced Engagement in Research (PEER) program addresses by funding local scientists worldwide. Studies in Ethiopia, the Dominican Republic, and Morocco showcase the uses and learning opportunities provided by microgrids.

Ethiopia

Just 36 percent of Ethiopia’s rural population has access to electricity. Ethiopian scientists Belachew Gessesse and Nigus Gabbiye Habtu and U.S. partner Suman Banerjee at the University of Wisconsin-Madison established a microgrid research lab at Bahir Dar University. The development of the lab and the prototype microgrid led to the founding of a university-level research program for microgrids, with opportunities for students to work with actual microgrids rather than simulation software. It has also increased the university’s capacity to develop expertise in microgrids and disseminate them in rural areas.

Dominican Republic

In recent years, the Dominican Republic has experienced increasingly frequent hurricanes and other severe weather events, which is particularly challenging due to the island’s dependency on conventional energy sources and traditional energy grid arrangements, causing service disruptions. Ramón Emilio De Jesús Grullón, at Pontificia Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra, and U.S. partner Hashem Nehrir from Montana State University are working to incorporate microgrids into the existing power grid to strengthen resilience. Through their PEER grant, they established the first simulation platform testbed in the country. This testbed gives students and faculty opportunities to gain skills in microgrid simulation software, while providing a useful decision making resource for government and communities that are interested in expanding microgrid and renewable energy use. In addition, the project team is influencing national policy, with De Jesús Grullón acting as the main external researcher and editor for the Indicative Plan of the Vice Ministry of Security and Energy Infrastructure. The project strengthens the country’s research capacity, energy networks, and government’s involvement in energy resilience.

Morocco

Microgrids can produce positive environmental and development impacts by incorporating renewable energy sources while expanding energy access. Dr. Mohamed Riduan Abid at Alakhawayn University along with Mohamed Bakhouya at International University of Rabat, Khalid Zinedine at University Chouaib Doukkali, and U.S. partner Dr. Driss Benhaddou at the University of Houston installed a microgrid testbed at Alakhawayn University to provide faculty and students space to conduct experiments and collect data. The testbed allows the team to study renewable energy usage, optimal energy storage strategies, and a responsive control system that uses real-time data such as temperature, humidity, and light. The team’s microgrid model is adaptable for various types of buildings to leverage green energy and energy efficiency.

To face climate change impacts, PEER researchers are exploring the use of microgrids to increase the resilience and availability of energy networks by developing knowledge, technologies, tools, and techniques that will aid future implementations. By funding local researchers worldwide, USAID assists in addressing regional challenges and capacitating communities to address climate change.

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