Microgrids for Smart Grid

Detailed overview of innovation with sample startups and prominent university research

What it is

A microgrid is a small-scale, localized energy system that can operate independently from the main grid or in conjunction with it. Microgrids typically integrate various distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar PV, wind turbines, energy storage systems, and generators, to provide electricity to a specific area, such as a community, campus, or industrial facility.

Impact on climate action

Microgrids within Smart Grids bolster climate action by enhancing energy resilience and efficiency. By integrating renewable energy sources and energy storage systems, these localized grids optimize energy distribution, reduce reliance on centralized fossil fuel-based power plants, and promote grid stability, accelerating the transition to a low-carbon energy system.


  • Distributed Energy Resources (DERs): DERs are small-scale energy generation and storage systems located at or near the point of consumption. They can include renewable energy sources like solar PV and wind, as well as conventional generators and energy storage systems.
  • Microgrid Controllers: Microgrid controllers manage and optimize energy flows within the microgrid, balancing energy production with consumption and storage. They ensure the stability and reliability of the microgrid, even when operating independently from the main grid.
  • Grid Integration: Microgrids can be grid-tied or off-grid. Grid-tied microgrids can connect to the main grid and exchange power, while off-grid microgrids operate independently, providing energy resilience and security.
  • Energy Management Systems (EMS): EMS optimize the operation of DERs within the microgrid, ensuring efficient energy utilization and grid stability. They can also facilitate demand response programs and participation in energy markets.
  • Cybersecurity: Microgrids require robust cybersecurity measures to protect against cyberattacks and ensure the security and reliability of the energy system.

TRL : 7-8

Prominent Innovation themes

  • Smart Microgrid Controllers: Advanced microgrid controllers utilize AI and machine learning to optimize energy flows within the microgrid, improving efficiency and reliability. They can predict energy demand and generation, manage energy storage, and respond to changing grid conditions.
  • Blockchain for Microgrid Management: Blockchain technology is being explored for applications in microgrid management, enabling secure and transparent communication and transactions between DERs and the microgrid operator. This can facilitate peer-to-peer energy trading and improve grid security.
  • Integrated Microgrid Solutions: Companies are developing integrated microgrid solutions that combine hardware, software, and services to simplify microgrid deployment and operation.
  • Microgrid Cybersecurity Solutions: As microgrids become more interconnected and reliant on digital technologies, cybersecurity solutions are being developed to protect against cyberattacks and ensure grid security.

Other Innovation Subthemes

  • Decentralized Energy Management
  • Renewable Integration Solutions
  • Advanced Grid Control Systems
  • Energy Trading Platforms
  • Resilient Power Infrastructure
  • Autonomous Energy Optimization
  • Community-Based Energy Solutions
  • Grid Resilience Technologies
  • Cybersecurity for Energy Networks
  • Next-Gen Microgrid Controllers
  • Sustainable Industrial Microgrids
  • Peer-to-Peer Energy Markets
  • Energy Storage Innovations
  • Remote Area Electrification
  • Smart Campus Microgrids
  • Military Base Energy Security
  • Urban Microgrid Development
  • Off-Grid Power Solutions
  • Grid-Interactive Buildings

Sample Global Startups and Companies

  1. Schneider Electric:
    • Technology Enhancement: Schneider Electric is a global leader in energy management and automation solutions, including microgrid technology. Their microgrid solutions integrate renewable energy sources, energy storage systems, and advanced control systems to create resilient and sustainable energy systems. Schneider Electric’s microgrid offerings include hardware, software, and services designed to optimize energy generation, storage, and consumption within a localized grid.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Schneider Electric stands out for its comprehensive approach to microgrid development, offering end-to-end solutions tailored to the needs of various industries and applications. Their expertise in energy management, grid automation, and digital technologies enables them to deliver reliable and efficient microgrid solutions that enhance energy resilience and sustainability.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Schneider Electric serves a diverse range of customers, including commercial and industrial facilities, utilities, campuses, and remote communities. Their microgrid solutions are deployed in critical infrastructure, off-grid applications, and urban environments, providing grid stability, energy independence, and cost savings.
  2. Siemens:
    • Technology Enhancement: Siemens is a leading provider of electrification, automation, and digitalization solutions, including microgrid technology. Their microgrid solutions integrate renewable energy sources, distributed energy resources (DERs), and intelligent control systems to optimize energy management and grid stability. Siemens’ microgrid portfolio includes hardware, software, and consulting services for designing, implementing, and operating microgrid systems.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: Siemens stands out for its extensive experience in power infrastructure and grid modernization, offering scalable and customizable microgrid solutions for diverse applications. Their focus on digitalization and connectivity enables seamless integration with existing grid infrastructure, allowing customers to achieve energy efficiency, reliability, and sustainability goals.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: Siemens serves utilities, industries, municipalities, and institutions seeking resilient and sustainable energy solutions. Their microgrid solutions are deployed in urban areas, industrial complexes, military bases, and remote communities, providing grid resilience, energy security, and economic benefits.
  3. ABB:
    • Technology Enhancement: ABB is a pioneering technology leader in electrification, robotics, and motion, including microgrid solutions. Their microgrid offerings encompass grid automation, renewable energy integration, and energy storage systems, leveraging advanced control algorithms and digital technologies. ABB’s microgrid solutions enable grid stability, energy optimization, and seamless integration with existing infrastructure.
    • Uniqueness of the Startup: ABB stands out for its innovation in grid automation and smart grid solutions, providing advanced microgrid solutions that enhance energy reliability and sustainability. Their focus on grid connectivity and interoperability enables seamless integration with renewable energy sources and grid assets, empowering customers to achieve their energy management objectives.
    • End-User Segments Addressing: ABB serves utilities, industries, commercial buildings, and communities seeking resilient and efficient energy solutions. Their microgrid solutions are deployed in a wide range of applications, including industrial parks, data centers, hospitals, and military installations, providing energy security, cost savings, and environmental benefits.

Sample Research At Top-Tier Universities

  1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT):
    • Research Focus: MIT is a pioneer in research on Microgrids, focusing on the development of advanced control algorithms, optimization techniques, and hardware-in-the-loop simulation platforms for resilient and efficient microgrid operation.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses the design, modeling, and analysis of microgrid architectures, energy management strategies, and distributed energy resource integration. They also investigate the impact of cyber-physical attacks, extreme weather events, and grid disturbances on microgrid resilience and reliability.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in military bases, remote communities, industrial complexes, and critical infrastructure facilities. By enabling autonomous operation, demand response, and islanding capabilities, MIT’s research empowers microgrid operators to enhance energy security, reduce carbon emissions, and optimize resource utilization in dynamic and uncertain environments.
  2. Stanford University:
    • Research Focus: Stanford University conducts innovative research on Microgrids, leveraging its expertise in power systems, distributed energy resources, and renewable energy integration to develop scalable, adaptive, and interoperable microgrid solutions.
    • Uniqueness: Their research involves exploring novel architectures, control strategies, and communication protocols for enabling seamless integration of distributed energy resources, energy storage systems, and electric vehicles into microgrid networks. They also investigate the socio-technical aspects of microgrid deployment, including regulatory frameworks, business models, and community engagement strategies.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work have applications in university campuses, healthcare facilities, data centers, and rural electrification projects. By providing reliable, affordable, and sustainable energy services, Stanford’s research supports economic development, social equity, and environmental stewardship in diverse microgrid environments.
  3. University of California, Berkeley:
    • Research Focus: UC Berkeley is engaged in cutting-edge research on Microgrids, leveraging its expertise in energy economics, policy analysis, and grid integration to address challenges related to microgrid planning, operation, and optimization.
    • Uniqueness: Their research encompasses techno-economic analysis, risk assessment, and decision support tools for evaluating the cost-effectiveness, resilience, and environmental impacts of microgrid deployment. They also explore innovative financing mechanisms, regulatory incentives, and community engagement strategies to overcome barriers to microgrid adoption and scale-up.
    • End-use Applications: The outcomes of their work find applications in urban resilience, renewable energy deployment, and disaster recovery. By promoting the development of community-owned microgrids, UC Berkeley’s research enhances energy access, empowers local stakeholders, and fosters sustainable development in vulnerable and underserved communities.

commercial_img Commercial Implementation

Microgrids are being implemented in various locations around the world, including remote communities, islands, military bases, university campuses, and industrial facilities. For example, the Blue Lake Rancheria microgrid in California provides energy resilience to the local community, while the Fort Hunter Liggett microgrid in California supports military operations with renewable energy.