Lessons Learned from Microgrid Demonstrations Worldwide

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While largely fossil-fuel based grids have supplied an increasing amount of electricity for our world with a commendable power quality and reliability (PQR) for more than a century, various concerns are now bringing the familiar universal centralized paradigm into question. One consequence is rapid research, development, and deployment of microgrids. Cost, reliability, energy efficiency, harvestable local clean energy, and climate change mitigation are the most commonly observed microgrid drivers, and various stakeholder groups including customers, technology providers, utilities, and governments are key stakeholders in the successful development of microgrid technology and policy. Essentially, microgrids can provide an avenue for increasing the amount of distributed generation and delivery of electricity, where control is more dispersed and quality of service is locally tailored to end-use requirements. Definitions for microgrids vary widely, but the two basic requirements most commonly cited internationally are: 1) a microgrid must contain both sources and sinks under local control, and 2) a microgrid must be able to function both grid connected and as an island.

In the interest of informing policymakers with illustrations from collective international experience, this work provides a brief overview of microgrid definitions, common characteristics, technology, barriers, and policy prescriptions, as well as thumbnail descriptions of successful microgrid projects worldwide. The survey leads to policy recommendations for starting a microgrid demonstration program and overall development of microgrid and distributed energy. Additionally, specific recommendations have been made for China specifically.

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