Looking Beyond Bill Savings to Equity in Renewable Energy Microgrid Deployment

Kate Anderson, Amanda Farthing, Emma Elgqvist, Adam Warren

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus Citations

Abstract

Microgrids powered by renewable energy can provide backup power to critical infrastructure during grid outages. These systems can also play an important role in advancing energy justice by providing economic, environmental, health, and resilience benefits for underserved communities. The value of microgrids is often measured by the economic savings and resilience provided, but there are other energy justice factors that should be considered. This paper describes a methodology for quantifying broader costs and benefits including utility bill savings, value of resilience, social cost of carbon, public health costs, and jobs associated with the construction and operation of microgrids. We evaluate these factors at three case study sites and find that including energy justice values in the cost-benefit analysis of microgrids can change investment decisions. When climate, health, resilience, and job creation are considered, cost-optimal microgrids include more renewable generation, leading to a 52-82% reduction in emissions and diesel fuel use. The net present values of the microgrids grow from negative $626,000-843,000 in the diesel only case to $10-16 million in the hybrid microgrid case and $12-19 million in the renewable microgrid case, indicating potential for greater microgrid deployment if energy justice values are incorporated in decision making. However, we also see large increases in capital expenses, which could limit deployment unless accompanied by innovative financing measures. These findings may be useful to communities as they seek to strengthen resilience to natural disasters while also improving public health, meeting climate goals, and providing economic opportunity for residents.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)15-32
Number of pages18
JournalRenewable Energy Focus
Volume41
DOIs
StatePublished - 2022

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5C00-80771

Keywords

  • energy decision-making
  • energy justice
  • environmental justice
  • equity
  • microgrid
  • resilience

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