University of San Diego

San Diego Journal of Climate & Energy Law


Following the blackout of the electric grid in the 1965 it was hypothesized that large central generation would lead to continued reliability problems. More recently, following Hurricane Sandy, there have been additional criticisms of the risks that large centralized electric systems face in terms of system restoration following catastrophic storms. Together these concerns have led some in the electric industry to conclude that bigger is not always better. In 2007, with the passage of the Energy Independence and Security Act, Congress initiated policy support for a smarter more distributed grid. Since then, utilities have begun to experiment with more distributed, micro-scale projects that allow sections of the grid to “island” and serve customers locally during catastrophic power outages. This paper examines three very different approaches to explore the benefits of distributed energy technologies as well as the public policies necessary to promote their vibrant future.