Energy Management

Microgrids are Key to Global Energy Independence: A Japan, UK and US Perspective

3 min read

Microgrids are key to energy independence as they provide unparalleled reliability and resilience needed to ensure continuity of operations. That’s why there is an increasing focus on the role of microgrids in both the U.S. and internationally. Recently, I had the opportunity to moderate a panel at the Innovative Smart Grid Technologies (ISGT) Conference, focusing on international microgrid implementation and best practices. There I heard from representatives from Japan, the United Kingdom and United States governments — all of whom are working in unique ways to advance smart grid and microgrid technology in their own countries as well as in the context of a greater global society. Below are key takeaways from the session.


Microgrid investment is viewed as an economic opportunity as well as an energy solution in Japan. Satoshi Morozumi from Japan’s New Energy and Industrial Technology Development Department is responsible for executing international smart grid and community projects and currently manages programs in the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Indonesia, United States and China. Japan’s goal for microgrid implementation is to generate the highest amount of renewable energy possible.

After hearing about two of the projects Japan is involved with in the United States, one in Los Alamos and one in Albuquerque, it is clear that they are employing similar strategies that we promote at Constellation: the need to integrate different types of energy (wind, solar, water) and coordinate smart demand response to capitalize on energy storage and distribution. Morozumi emphasized that Japan’s recent microgrid projects need to improve grid battery technology. He explained why advances in battery technology would further unlock microgrid potential and allow the entire energy system to become more efficient in distribution and management capabilities.

United Kingdom

Broad based smart grid implementation will play a crucial role in helping the UK meet its renewable energy goals, according to the second panelist, Alan Bryce from the UK’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. Bryce spoke about the connection between the UK’s energy sustainability goals and the larger role the European Union (EU) plays in its policies. As a member of the EU, the UK has a responsibility to meet renewable energy targets by 2020. Smart grids will help meet these targets, he noted.

Bryce also spoke about an interesting funding mechanism employed by the UK –a competitive funding structure that incentivizes innovative solutions in the smart grid space. To create a system that allows for ‘safe innovation,’ the UK awards utilities with multi-year, incentive-based price controls for the projects that are most energy efficient and beneficial to consumers. While winners receive more of the market share, they are also obligated to share their information and research with all the utilities that lost. The goal is to marry competition with collaboration in a way that allows for faster and less disruptive mainstream deployment of smart grids.

United States

The U.S.’ International Smart Grid Action Network (ISGAN) within the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) brings high-level government attention and action to accelerate the development of smarter and cleaner electricity grids around the world. The last panelist, Russell Conklin from DOE’s Office of International Affairs and a member of ISGAN’s Executive Committee, discussed the vast network of 25 counties that have formed peer-to-peer dialogues and execute multi-national smart grid projects based on international best practices, standards and lessons learned. To date, ISGAN has catalogued 98 smart grid activities in 17 different countries and runs trainings and seminars in different regions throughout the year.

This international panel served as a reminder that while we work to advance our own nation’s energy security, we must not do so in a vacuum. ISGT gave international microgrid and smart grid leaders the opportunity to exchange best practices and learn from each other on how to improve approaches to grid implementation and long-term energy management. It is important that these conversations continue and organizations like ISGAN work to promote multi-national solutions to microgrid and smart grid technology so we can take full advantage of the findings and provide a cleaner, smarter and more resilient energy infrastructure.

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