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Centralised and distributed electricity systems


  • Bouffard, François
  • Kirschen, Daniel S.


Because of their high level of integration, centralised energy supply systems are vulnerable to disturbances in the supply chain. In the case of electricity especially, this supply paradigm is losing some of its appeal. Apart from vulnerability, a number of further aggravating factors are reducing its attractiveness. They include the depletion of fossil fuels and their climate change impact, the insecurities affecting energy transportation infrastructure, and the desire of investors to minimise risks through the deployment of smaller-scale, modular generation and transmission systems. Small-scale decentralised systems, where energy production and consumption are usually tightly coupled, are emerging as a viable alternative. They are less dependent upon centralised energy supply, and can sometimes use more than one energy source. They are less sensitive to the uncertain availability of remote primary energy and transportation networks. In addition, the close connection between energy generation and use makes decentralised systems cleaner because they are most often based on renewable energies or on high-efficiency fossil fuel-based technologies such as combined heat and power (CHP). Fully decentralised energy supply is not currently possible or even truly desirable. The secure and clean energy systems of the future will be those flexible enough to allow for a spectrum of hybrid modes of operation and investment, combining the best attributes of both paradigms. A large part of this flexibility will come from the networks that make it possible to combine these two types of infrastructures and obtain the benefits of both approaches.

Suggested Citation

  • Bouffard, François & Kirschen, Daniel S., 2008. "Centralised and distributed electricity systems," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(12), pages 4504-4508, December.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:enepol:v:36:y:2008:i:12:p:4504-4508

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