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Technological Changes Enabling a Shift Toward a Distributed, Decentralized and Diverse Model of Energy Generation and Distribution

Fiona Cousins, Adam Friedberg, and Chris Brosz

July 2014, English

This paper provides an overview of the technological changes that can complement the legacy electric grid as the New York metropolitan region shifts towards a more distributed, decentralized, and diverse model of electric infrastructure. Making the transition from a centralized grid to a distributed arrangement incorporating generation from a variety of power sources will require a systematic approach in the region. Interventions must be dynamic and flexible to accommodate legacy infrastructure, changing technology, and increasing proportions of renewable generators with unpredictable and varying power output. Infrastructure planners must avoid technological “lock-in”—using outdated technologies or non-adaptable equipment, which could become obsolete—and allow a graceful transition from the traditional system. The technology solutions that will be addressed in the paper are broken down into the following components: generation, transmission and development, and storage.

The authors acknowledge that while the technologies necessary for a more distributed, decentralized and diverse grid are readily available, regulatory and business models will need to change in order to achieve this shift at-scale. This paper is one in a series of Working Papers produced by the joint program of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy and Regional Plan Association originally presented on June 26, 2013 in New York City.