An Introduction to Circular Economy

Circular Economy Enabled by Community Microgrids

Abstract

Electricity is at the heart of modern economies and it is providing a rising share of energy services. Global demand for electricity is set to increase further as a result of rising household incomes, with the electrification of transport and heat, and growing demand for digital connected devices and air conditioning. Rising electricity demand was one of the key reasons why global CO 2 emissions from the power sector reached a record high in 2018. In fact, as per the projections of International Energy Agency (IEA), electricity’s share in total final energy consumption is expected to increase from 19% in 2018 to at least 24% in 2040. One of the potentially effective approaches for providing universal access to electricity is community microgrids built on distributed energy resources (DER) such as photovoltaic (PV) systems and batteries. As DER can generate and store electricity locally, they can power microgrids. A microgrid is a group of interconnected loads and distributed energy resources within clearly defined electrical boundaries that acts as a single controllable entity. A set of microgrids can be interconnected together to form community microgrids. In a community microgrid (CM), prosumers and consumers can cooperate to generate, share and consume electricity. Such CMs minimise the use of fuels required by conventional power plants, reduce creation of waste, pollution and carbon emissions. Additionally, DERs such as solar panels reduce the need for fuels and manufacturing supplies for long periods as their expected lifetime is about 20 years. Moreover, in a CM, the excess energy generated by a producer can be shared with the other members of that CM thereby recycling the excess energy. In summary, community microgrids incorporate the principles of circularity or circular economy to enable universal access to electricity while reducing air pollution and thereby addressing the climate change.

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