Vulnerability of centralized power systems

Centralized power systems rely on large power plants and transmission grids. They are susceptible to single points of failure, making them vulnerable to extreme weather events.

Cyclone Gabrielle and the recent flooding in Auckland, which both resulted in widespread power outages, are prime examples of this.

Microgrids (small collections of power-generating assets, often run by communities) and P2P energy systems hold promise for sustainable and resilient energy. Microgrids are self-sufficient and can operate independently or in conjunction with the larger grid. They can run on different types of renewable energy sources, including solar, wind, and hydro power.

Microgrids are ideal for communities far from the main grid or in areas prone to extreme weather.

Microgrids are ideal for communities far from the main grid or in areas prone to extreme weather. Image: Conversation

Microgrids are ideal for communities far from the main grid or in areas prone to extreme weather.

P2P energy systems allow individuals and communities to generate, share, and trade energy among themselves. This creates a decentralized energy market and allows for more efficient energy use and distribution.

Cost-effectiveness and social acceptability

Our research shows that microgrids, both grid-connected and off-grid, can be cost-effective when optimized. In Aotearoa New Zealand, they can be on par or even more cost-effective than traditional power.

Our case studies from Aotea Great Barrier IslandRakiura Stewart Island, and the town of Ohakune demonstrate this.

The implementation of microgrids and P2P energy systems in these areas has the potential to improve energy resilience and save communities money on their electricity bills.

The social desirability and acceptability of these technologies are crucial factors and will determine their success and widespread adoption. Public perception can sometimes be a barrier to their implementation.

For example, microgrids often require significant amounts of land to install renewable energy sources, such as solar panels or wind turbines. However, some communities may resist the development of these projects due to concerns over land use.

The visual impact on the surrounding area or the potential disruption to wildlife habitats can also be reasons for resistance.

In these cases, project developers and local authorities need to engage with communities. They need to address their concerns and promote a greater understanding of these technologies and their benefits to build support for these projects.

Demonstration projects can also showcase the capabilities and benefits of microgrids and P2P energy solutions. Involving the local community in the development and ownership can increase their social acceptability.

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