Power to the people

The shift to decentralized energy generation

In a revolutionary shift, for the first time since the move towards distributed power began in the early twenties, energy generated by minigrids has officially outstripped large power stations in the United States.

Following the global energy crisis sparked by the Russia-Ukraine conflict, and the growing urgency to move away from fossil fuels, the world saw widespread adoption of small-scale renewable power – predominantly rooftop and parking lot solar systems.

As private production ramped up, some power companies saw the writing on the wall and began rewiring their business models – pivoting to an ‘energy-as-a-service’ (EaaS) supplier concept. Utilities dramatically scaled back new power station builds and upgrades. By retraining and redeploying workers, innovative EaaS players were able to install and maintain custom minigrids at consumers’ homes and businesses. For consumers, it meant greater energy security and lower cost, while utilities got new capacity without the enormous, fixed overheads of centralized power plants.

Power companies are now closer than ever to their renewable energy mandates, and they’ve achieved it with a significantly smaller investment in grid infrastructure upgrades. Although some grid upgrades were necessary to enable the shift, the ‘big bang’ rebuild initially expected did not materialize. This, coupled with lower overheads for utilities, has resulted in significantly improved profit margins alongside a reduction in carbon emissions.

Almost a decade in the making, the shift to minigrids required substantial foresight and visionary thinking on the part of both the utilities and government. Without the fast-tracked legislative changes and investment in initial grid upgrades needed, we might have found ourselves in the dark.

And what’s the use of a revolution that doesn’t bring power to the people?

Warning: Hazardous thinking at work

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