A Menu for Enhancing Local Energy Resilience in Boston and Beyond

June 22, 2023 by Alex Kramer

A new NREL report describes resilience initiatives that provide benefits to state/local governments and communities, especially environmental justice communities.

Like utilities in many cities, National Grid was interested in providing community-level energy resilience solutions to its customers, especially to promote equity, but they needed a place to start. Community Resilience Options: A Menu for Enhancing Local Energy Resilience, a new NREL technical report developed through the Solar Energy Innovation Network (SEIN), outlines a menu of options for enhancing resilience in communities throughout the United States.

In October 2022, SEIN's Assistance for Early Adopters program provided technical assistance to National Grid in the form of a menu for enhancing local energy resilience options, which became the basis of the new report. Potential community resilience improvements, especially those related to clean energy deployment for communities and municipalities, have been of interest to both SEIN teams in the past and current communities for improving the local resilience for residents, businesses, and vulnerable populations. National Grid sought to apply those solutions to take advantage of a Massachusetts Senate bill that gives electric and gas distribution companies the authority to construct, own, and operate solar photovoltaic systems paired with energy storage. The bill, now known as Chapter 8 of the 2021 legislative session, aims to support the climate adaptation and resilience goals of Massachusetts municipalities at high risk from the effects of climate change.

This new report introduces 10 high-level categories of resilience-enhancing energy-related projects intended for community members, planners, and decision-makers new to the topic to build their understanding of which solutions fit their community best.

These high-level categories include:

  • Emergency service support
  • Community awareness and education
  • Efficiency-resilience nexus
  • Green infrastructure
  • Financial support
  • Energy storage
  • Power generation
  • Resilience hubs
  • Network infrastructure and security
  • Electric transportation.

System resilience leads to community resilience by minimizing disruptions and neutralizing threats before they even have a chance to impact people's lives. These categories focus primarily on community-scale measures and different options may be available at larger scales. Community resilience can also mean increasing community equity, capacity, socio-economic factors, and social networks as a whole. Although those goals might be outcomes or co-benefits of some of energy resilience strategies highlighted in this report, the report does not specifically cover methods for increasing community resilience through a social lens. Full implementation of the measures described requires in-depth, site-specific considerations that go beyond the report's scope.

This menu will hopefully spark decision-makers to consider the wide range of resilience options available to them and promote conversations about these options with their communities.

Community Resilience Options: A Menu for Enhancing Local Energy Resilience was prepared under the Assistance for Early Adopters initiative, which provides targeted technical assistance for entities seeking to adapt and apply the innovations and insights developed by SEIN project teams. Originating in this programmatic context, this work builds on the SEIN Round 2 Breaking Barriers and Clear Sky Tampa Bay projects, each of which describe resilience initiatives that provide benefits to state and local governments and communities.