As the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has recognized, even though they are generally located behind the meter on the distribution system, microgrids provide services that substitute for and compete with the services of wholesale generation. They generally purchase power at retail rates, either from utilities or, where allowed, competitive load serving entities that are regulated by state public utility commissions (PUCs), and they sell power at wholesale rates subject to FERC jurisdiction. At the federal level, FERC has been making pioneering efforts to level the playing field for resources such as microgrids. Orders 745, 755, and 784 open the doors within Regional Transmission Operator-managed control areas to compensation for demand resources and storage facilities that provide demand response and frequency regulation services. However, adoption by Independent System Operators (ISOs) and RTOs is following slowly; there is still much room for improvement. The regulations are designed for resources that are generators or that provide load curtailment, not resources that are both. Microgrids employing multiple energy management technologies can simultaneously provide multiple services with multiple set points, but market rules generally do not permit them to do so. Traditional baseline load calculations for demand resources do not capture the optionality of microgrids. In addition, microgrids are generally not recognized as capacity resources.
At the level of federally mandated transmission planning, matters are even more confused. The compensation systems for transmission and generation are fundamentally different, even though both can serve to improve the adequacy and reliability of supply. “Congestion pricing” in RTO markets allocates the use of the system but does not provide an incentive to site generation to meet grid planning goals. Microgrids are neither transmission nor pure generation and are really not contemplated by the planning system at all, even though they can provide reliability and economic benefits to the grid.