• Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

    The Next Generation of Power: Decentralized Energy Networks

    ByEmma Wolukau-Wanambwa

    Nov 20, 2023
    The Next Generation of Power: Decentralized Energy Networks

    In a rapidly evolving energy landscape, the conventional power plant is no longer the sole provider of electricity. Vermont’s Green Mountain Power utility has paved the way for a new approach to energy generation and distribution. Instead of relying solely on large power plants, the utility has created an online network of over 4,500 electric storage batteries, rooftop solar panels, smart water heaters, and E.V. chargers distributed across thousands of homes.

    This innovative system allows the utility to manage and control these distributed energy resources to optimize power usage during peak demand and weather events. By strategically charging batteries and preheating water heaters, the utility can ensure a reliable electricity supply during storms or hot summer days. The network turns buildings into virtual batteries, storing energy for later use.

    Green Mountain Power’s initiative is gaining momentum, with plans to install storage batteries for 270,000 homes and businesses in the next decade. This model of decentralized energy networks is also being adopted by other companies, such as Sunrun, which provides rooftop solar panels and storage batteries on a national scale. By leveraging residential power sources, utilities can avoid the need for constructing new power plants and create a more reliable and affordable grid.

    According to a report by the Department of Energy, virtual power plants (V.P.P.s) like these could handle 20% of peak power demand in the country by 2030, at a significantly lower cost compared to traditional plants. As the number of electric vehicles (E.V.s) increases, the potential for these decentralized networks to play a significant role in meeting energy demands grows even further.

    Moving forward, this decentralized approach to energy generation and distribution offers a fresh perspective on how we can optimize our power systems. By harnessing the power of distributed energy resources and efficiently managing demand, we can create a more resilient, reliable, and cost-effective energy infrastructure.


    What is a decentralized energy network?

    A decentralized energy network refers to a system wherein energy generation and distribution are not solely dependent on large centralized power plants. Instead, it involves leveraging distributed energy resources, such as rooftop solar panels and storage batteries, across various locations to optimize power usage and ensure reliability.

    How does a decentralized energy network work?

    In a decentralized energy network, energy resources are distributed across multiple locations, such as homes and businesses. These resources, including storage batteries, solar panels, and smart devices, are interconnected through an online network. The utility manages and controls these resources to optimize power usage during peak demand and weather events.

    What are the advantages of decentralized energy networks?

    Decentralized energy networks offer several advantages. They enhance grid resilience by diversifying energy sources, ensuring a reliable power supply during storms or other disruptions. These networks also help in cost reduction by avoiding the need for constructing large power plants and reducing transmission losses. Additionally, they promote the use of renewable energy sources and enable greater customer participation in the energy sector.

    (Source: Department of Energy report on virtual power plants)