Grid Architecture[edit | edit source]

Grid architecture generally describes the basic equipment types and sizes that are used to serve different utility functions. In the history of electric utility companies serving specific geographic territories, companies determined the basic infrastructure components used to deliver services to their end-use customers. This includes all of the basic components, like poles, wires, and transformers, plus communications and control technologies. As the electricity system is potentially subject to new types of equipment and functions, notably to distributed energy generation, multiple kinds of energy storage at many scales, and sensors and controls to better manage both supply and demand flexibility, new kinds of grid architecture are being introduced. [See especially U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity, 2022 and 2019.] In the past, grid architecture for utility services (broadband & telecommunications, electric, natural gas, potable water, wastewater) was almost always discussed in terms of facilities that are interconnected with a wide-area utility grid and using highly centralized and very large scale components. Primary examples include gigawatt-scale electric generators serving customers using hundreds or thousands of miles of high-voltage electric transmission.

However, much more attention is being paid now to highly distributed-scale resources (serving individual end users, small clusters of users, neighborhoods, or small villages). Some of those facilities are likely to begin serving consumers as remote, off-grid facilities which might never be interconnected with a wide-area grid. The World Bank estimates that as many as 200,000 remote mini- and micro-grids are needed to serve customers who might never have access to a wide area grid, or for those that wide area grids might not reach in the coming decade.[1]

Energy Ladder[edit | edit source]

The essence of the "energy ladder" concept is that customers who previously lacked them should be afforded the opportunity to obtain access to clean and modern energy technologies and services, in small and gradual ladder-like "steps." Each subsequent step up the energy ladder can lead to improved outcomes in terms of economic growth and prosperity. This concept is frequently discussed in conjunction with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal #7 [SDG7]. That goal is intended to "ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all." [See Appropedia on Sustainable Develoopment Goals].

Image source: Tom Stanton, Presentation to American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, Sustainable Energy for a Sustainable Future Conference, virtually and in San Jose, Costa Rica, October 24-26, 2022,

The image (at right) provides a conceptual overview of one concept of "Energy Ladder," at orders of magnitude from "no service" to single-digit watts (in what is frequently called a "solar lantern"), and then upwards in scale to include consideration of the smallest microgrids up to the largest microgrids for major campuses or whole communities, and even larger wide-area-grids at sizes that can exceed 100MW.

As Stanton and Nordman (2017) explain

There is an opportunity for all utilities to create value for their stakeholders by enabling and implementing a well-designed energy ladder, meaning a sequence of products and services that leads to increasing well-being for customers that are presently unserved or underserved.

Ideas about requirements for new grid architecture[edit | edit source]

Appropedia links[edit | edit source]

Other links[edit | edit source]

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Authors Tom Stanton
License CC-BY-SA-4.0
Language English (en)
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Created April 1, 2024 by Tom Stanton
Modified July 3, 2024 by StandardWikitext bot
  1. Add cite to World Bank Reports for this detail.
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