Despite the immense environmental, technical, and financial promise of distributed generation (DG) technologies, they still constitute a very small percentage of electricity capacity in the United States. This manuscript answers the apparently paradoxical question: Why do technologies that offer such impressive benefits also find the least use? Going beyond technical explanations of problems related to system control, higher capital costs, and environmental compliance, this paper focuses on sociotechnical barriers related to utility preferences, business practices, regulatory bias, and consumer values. The approach helps us understand the glossing over of DG technologies, and identifies the impediments that policymakers must overcome if they are to find wider use.

1.
U.S. Department of Energy
, 2007, “
The Potential Benefits of Distributed Generation and Rate-Related Issues That May Impede Their Expansion
,” U.S. Department of Energy, Washington, DC.
2.
Munson
,
R.
, 2006, “
Yes, in My Backward: Distributed Electric Power
,” Issues in Science and Technology, Winter, p.
51
.
3.
Onsite Energy Corporation
, 2001, “
Assessment of On-Site Power Opportunities in the Industrial Sector
,” Department of Energy Office of Industrial Technology, Final Report, Mar., p.
ES
-
1
.
4.
U.S. Energy Information Administration
, 2002, “
The Role of Distributed Generation in U.S. Electricity Markets
,” http://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/speeches/figure_8.htmlhttp://www.eia.doe.gov/oiaf/speeches/figure_8.html.
5.
LaCommare
,
K.
,
Edwards
,
J.
,
Gumermann
,
E.
, and
Marnay
,
C.
, 2005, “
Distributed Generation Potential of the U.S. Commercial Sector
,” Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Report No. LBNL-57919, Berkeley, CA.
6.
Sovacool
,
B. K.
, 2006, “
The Power Production Paradox: Revealing the Socio-Technical Impediments to Distributed Generation Technologies
,” Ph.D. thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA.
7.
Ackermann
,
T.
,
Andersson
,
G.
, and
Soder
,
L.
, 2000, “
Distributed Generation: A Definition
,”
Electr. Power Syst. Res.
0378-7796,
57
, pp.
195
204
.
8.
Kauhaniemi
,
K.
,
Komulainen
,
R.
, and
Samuelsson
,
O.
, 2004, “
Distributed Generation: New Technical Solutions Required in the Distribution System
,” http://powersystems.tkk.fi/nordac2004/papers/nordac2004_kauhaniemi_et_al_paper.pdfhttp://powersystems.tkk.fi/nordac2004/papers/nordac2004_kauhaniemi_et_al_paper.pdf.
9.
Madlener
,
R.
, and
Wohlgemuth
,
N.
, 1999, “
Small is Sometimes Beautiful: The Case of Distributed Generation in Competitive Energy Markets
,”
Proceedings of the First Austrian-Czech-German Conference on Energy Market Liberalization in the Central and Eastern Europe
,
Prague, Czech Republic
, Sept. 6–8, pp.
95
96
.
10.
Goett
,
A.
, and
Farmer
,
R.
, 2003, “
Prospects for Distributed Electricity Generation: A CBO Paper
,” Congressional Budget Office, Washington, DC, p.
6
.
11.
Meherwan
,
P. B.
, 2002,
Handbook for Cogeneration and Combined Cycle Power Plants
,
ASME
,
New York
, p.
25
.
12.
Brooks
,
S.
,
Elswick
,
B.
, and
Elliott
,
R. N.
, 2006, “
Combined Heat and Power: Connecting the Gap Between Markets and Utility Interconnection and Tariff Practices
,” ACEEE, Report No. IE062, Washington, DC.
13.
Wiser
,
W. H.
, 2000,
Energy Resources: Occurrence, Production, Conversion, Use
,
Springer
,
New York
, pp.
198
199
.
14.
Nordin
,
A.
, 1994, “
Chemical Elemental Characteristics of Biomass Fuels
,”
Biomass Bioenergy
0961-9534,
6
, pp.
339
347
;
U.S. Department of Energy
, 2007, “
Renewable Energy
,” available at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/http://www1.eere.energy.gov/;
Sovacool
,
B. K.
, 2006, “
The Power Production Paradox: Revealing the Socio-Technical Impediments to Distributed Generation Technologies
,” Ph.D. thesis, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA..
15.
Petchers
,
N.
, 2003,
Combined Heating, Cooling and Power Handbook: Technologies and Applications
,
The Fairmount
,
New York
;
Nakarado
,
G.
, and
Thomas
,
H.
, 2003, “
Combined Heat and Power, Revisited
,” Public Utilities Fortnightly No. 141, Sept. 1, pp.
39
41
;
Siddiqui
,
A. S.
,
Firestone
,
R. M.
,
Ghosh
,
S.
,
Stadler
,
M.
,
Edwards
,
J. L.
, and
Marnay
,
C.
, 2003, “
Distributed Energy Resources With Combined Heat and Power Applications
,” The Ernest Orlando Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory Report, Jun.;
Willis
,
H. L.
, and
Scott
,
W. G.
, 2000,
Distributed Power Generation: Planning and Evaluation
,
Dekker
,
New York
.
16.
17.
McDermott
,
T. E.
, and
Dugan
,
R. D.
, 2003, “
PQ, Reliability, and DG
,” IEEE Industry Applications Magazine, Sept., pp.
17
23
.
18.
National Energy Policy Development Group
, 2001, “
Reliable, Affordable, and Environmentally Sound Energy for America’s Future
,” Whitehouse Printing Services, Washington, DC.
19.
U.S. Department of Energy
, 2002, “
Homeland Security: Safeguarding America’s Future With Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technologies
,” Washington, DC.
21.
Parker
,
N. C.
, 2004, “
Using Natural Gas Transmission Pipeline Costs to Estimate Hydrogen Pipeline Costs
,” University of California, Report No. UCD-ITS-RR-04–35, Davis.
22.
Sovacool
,
B. K.
, and
Cooper
,
C.
, 2006, “
Green Means Go: A Colorful Approach to a National Renewable Portfolio Standard
,”
Electr. J.
1040-6190,
19
(
7
), pp.
19
32
.
23.
Strachan
,
N.
, and
Farrell
,
A.
, 2006, “
Emissions From Distributed vs. Centralized Generation: The Importance of System Performance
,”
Energy Policy
0301-4215,
34
(
17
), pp.
2677
2689
.
24.
Williams
,
E.
,
James
,
C.
, and
Tubiolo
,
T.
, 2003, “
Distributed Generation and a Forecast of Its Growth and Effects on the New York State Electric System From 2001 to 2020
,” Center for Clean Air Policy, Washington, DC.
25.
Silveira
,
J. L.
,
de Carbalho
,
J. A.
, and
Villela
,
A. D. C.
, 2007, “
Combined Cycle Versus One Thousand Diesel Power Plants: Pollutant Emissions, Ecological Efficiency and Economic Analysis
,”
Renewable Sustainable Energy Rev.
1364-0321,
11
, pp.
524
535
.
26.
Heath
,
G. A.
,
Granvold
,
P. W.
,
Hoats
,
A. S.
, and
Nazaroff
,
W. W.
, 2005, “
Quantifying the Air Pollution Exposure Consequences of Distributed Electricity Generation
,” University of California Energy Institute, Berkeley, CA.
27.
Hirsh
,
R. F.
, 1989,
Technology and Transformation in the American Electric Utility Industry
,
Cambridge University Press
,
Cambridge, UK
.
28.
Feinstein
,
C. D.
,
Orans
,
R.
, and
Chapel
,
S. W.
, 1997, “
The Distributed Utility: A New Electric Utility Planning and Pricing Paradigm
,”
Annu. Rev. Energy Environ.
1056-3466,
22
, pp.
157
162
.
29.
Makarov
,
Y.
, 2002, “
California ISO Wind Generation Forecasting Service Design and Experience
,” California Independent Systems Operator Report, http://www.caiso.com/docs/2002/06/12/2002061211030528205.pdfhttp://www.caiso.com/docs/2002/06/12/2002061211030528205.pdf.
30.
Karmis
,
M.
,
Abiecunas
,
J.
,
Sovacool
,
B.
, and
Hirsh
,
R.
, 2005, “
A Study of Increased Use of Renewable Energy Resources in Virginia
,” Virginia Center for Coal and Energy Research, http://www.energy.vt.edu/Publications/Incr_Use_Renew_Energy_VA_rev1.pdfhttp://www.energy.vt.edu/Publications/Incr_Use_Renew_Energy_VA_rev1.pdf.
31.
Capehart
,
B. L.
,
Mehta
,
P.
, and
Turner
,
W.
, 2003, “
Distributed Generation and Your Energy Future
,”
Cogeneration and Distributed Generation Journal
,
18
(
4
), pp.
17
33
.
32.
Wan
,
Y. H.
, and
Parsons
,
B. K.
, 1993, “
Factors Relevant to Utility Integration of Intermittent Renewable Technologies
,” National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Report No. NREL∕TP-463–4953, Golden, CO, http://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/old/4953.pdfhttp://www.nrel.gov/docs/legosti/old/4953.pdf
33.
Bruno
,
J. C.
,
Massagues
,
L.
, and
Coronas
,
A.
, 2004, “
Stand-Alone and Grid-Connected Performance Analysis of a Regenerative Micro Gas Turbine Cogeneration Plant
,”
Proc. Inst. Mech. Eng., Part A
0957-6509,
218
, pp.
15
22
.
34.
Strachan
,
N.
, and
Farrell
,
A.
, 2006, “
Emissions From Distributed vs. Centralized Generation: The Importance of System Performance
,”
Energy Policy
0301-4215,
34
(
17
), pp.
2677
2689
.
35.
Hadley
,
S. W.
,
Van Dyke
,
J. W.
,
Moore
,
W. P.
, and
Stovall
,
T. K.
, 2003, “
Quantitative Assessment of Distributed Energy Resources Benefits
,” Oak Ridge National Laboratory Report No. ORNL∕TM-2003∕20, Oak Ridge, TN.
36.
Strachan
,
N.
, and
Dowlatabadi
,
H.
, 2002, “
Distributed Generation and Distribution Utilities
,”
Energy Policy
0301-4215,
30
, pp.
649
661
.
37.
38.
Primary Energy Incorporated
, 2006, “
Lakeside Energy LLC
,” http://www.primaryenergy.com/facilities/http://www.primaryenergy.com/facilities/.
40.
Russell
,
C.
, 2004, “
Barriers to Industrial Energy Cost Control: The Competitor Within
,” Alliance to Save Energy, Washington, DC, pp.
1
2
.
41.
Pasqualetti
,
M. J.
, 2000, “
Morality, Space, and the Power of Wind-Energy Landscapes
,”
Geogr. Rev.
0016-7428,
90
(
3
), pp.
384
386
.
You do not currently have access to this content.