Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

 

Supporting the Development of Resilience Hubs

Clean-energy powered “resilience hubs” with battery storage can provide critical emergency response services in areas with greater socioeconomic risk, while also providing broader grid modernization benefits. Resilience Hubs are defined by USDN as “community-serving facilities augmented to support residents and coordinate resource distribution and services before, during, or after a natural hazard event.”See footnote 1 At a minimum, a resilience hub should be able to provide emergency services during extreme events — including offering the community a place to gather to obtain information, receive emergency supplies, store and refrigerate medical supplies, receive basic medical care, charge electronic devices, and access the internet.See footnote 2 In addition, resilience hubs are designed to deliver other “steady-state” services based upon community input and needs. The resilience hub is outfitted with a solar and back-up battery storage system (energy system) that can “island” from the conventional grid and maintain power to the facility during wider grid outages to provide steady-state services.See footnote 3 Resilience hubs must be carefully sited to consider proper interconnection to the existing macrogrid and to serve the best interest of the community. Another important consideration is identifying potential facilities that will house a resilience hub. The funding, owning, and operating of a resilience hub will likely involve various entities, agencies, and partnerships, which may lead to a complex system of agreements between involved parties.

Considerations of Supporting the Development of Resilience Hubs

Economic

  • Battery storage is the costliest and the most essential component of a resilience hub. Acquiring battery storage is critical to ensuring steady-state energy to avoid economic losses and provide critical emergency services during power outages.
  • Public-private partnerships with utilities could be arranged where the utility leases back the right to use the battery storage during normal operations to enhance grid resilience community-wide. Such a partnership could deliver financial benefits to the resilience hub operator or provide a mechanism to finance the installation of the battery system.
  • A solar and storage system might not appear to be economical under traditional cost-benefit calculations, but improvements are being made to these methodologies to better capture the resilience and environmental value of solar and storage systems, which can help make the fiscal case for these types of investments.

Environmental

  • When powered by renewable sources, resilience hubs can deliver environmental benefits by enhancing clean energy solutions. 
  • Battery storage can also help to expand the capacity of the grid to better integrate renewable energy sources, which can contribute to reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.

Social /Equity

  • In addition to being designed and managed by the community, hubs are meant to be in well-trusted, well-utilized community facilities that serve the needs of the community more broadly than temporary emergency shelters do.
  • Hubs can also enhance social cohesion because they can be designed to serve as community gathering places and “community centers” where residents can access information and services.

Administrative

  • Resilience hubs are innovative and can be technically difficult to administer because they often require multiple funding streams and coordination among public agencies and the private owner or operator to establish and retrofit a facility to serve as a hub.
  • In addition to the upfront work needed to establish a hub, the parties need to develop long-term deployment plans and sustainable funding sources for activating this hub during emergency events.

Legal

  • Resilience hubs that are implemented in a single facility are often not subject to regulation as a microgrid, so likely, they would only need to comply with local rules regarding interconnection and islanding.
  • An agreement between government agencies and hub owners/operators will likely be required to lay out roles and obligations for activating the hub during emergencies and long-term hub operations and maintenance.

Lessons Learned

  • Recognizing there is no one size fits all approach to establishing a resilience hub, partners should remember the core purpose and definition of what a resilience hub is and who it is to serve outside of the technical and physical aspects of the hub itself.
  • When powered by renewable sources, resilience hubs can deliver environmental benefits by enhancing clean energy solutions and reducing the community’s carbon footprint.
  • If the community is not directly involved as a party to the design of the resilience hub, the facility does not qualify as such.
  • In addition to the upfront work needed to establish a hub, the parties need to develop long-term deployment plans and sustainable funding sources for activating the hub during emergency events.
  • Government agencies and hub owners/operators will likely need an agreement to define the roles and obligations for activating the hub during emergencies and maintaining long-term hub operation.

 

Related Resources

 
Resilience Hubs: Shifting Power to Communities and Increasing Community Capacity

This report describes an initiative of the Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) to encourage the creation of Resilience Hubs, which are defined as community-serving facilities meant to both support residents and coordinate resource distribution and services before, during or after a natural hazard event. While these are primarily meant to address vulnerability and risk, this report explains how Resilience Hubs can also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and support social equity. The report draws on lessons from Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, two cities that are actively exploring the Resilience Hub concept. 

Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Resilience Hubs

The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) Resilience Hubs initiative is supporting the development of “hubs” that are defined as community-serving facilities meant to both support residents and coordinate resource distribution and services before, during or after a natural hazard event. Resilience hubs offer an approach to climate adaptation that shifts power to communities and residents, enhances communities’ capacity to adapt to climate impacts, and focuses on social equity. Building on the USDN Resilience Hubs White Paper, the Resilience Hub website provides the necessary resources to guide practitioners through the planning and implementation of resilience hub projects.

USDN Guide to Developing Resilience Hubs

The Urban Sustainability Directors Network (USDN) is supporting the development of Resilience Hubs, which are described as community-serving facilities that aid and educate residents, and coordinate resource distribution and services before, during or after a natural hazard event. The USDN Resilience Hub guidance document is a living framework designed to assist communities in planning for, implementing and operating a community Resilience Hub - geared towards local governments, community-based organizations, and other practitioners. 

Maycroft Apartments “Resiliency Room” in Affordable Housing Complex in Washington, DC

A non-profit affordable housing developer, Jubilee Housing, is working to incorporate a “resiliency room” and increase affordable housing by renovating the historic Maycroft Apartments in the Columbia Heights neighborhood of Washington, D.C. – an area of the District that has been experiencing rapid gentrification. The project will provide affordable housing and will renovate the complex's basement into a resiliency room to provide both emergency and everyday services for residents. A 70.2 kilowatt (kW) rooftop solar panel array and a backup battery system will provide renewable power for the complex. The battery system will have the ability to island and provide power for three days to enable continued operation of the resiliency room during grid outages due to severe weather or other disruptions. During power outages, the resiliency room will provide access to refrigeration, power to charge devices, and telecommunications. Steady-state services will include a family resource center, teenage after-school and early childhood education programs, a mobile food truck to provide meals for the homeless, and a market for families to access healthy food at no additional cost. By combining a resiliency room with affordable housing, the project will help to deliver resilience benefits for the District’s most at-risk residents.

Maryland Resiliency Hub Grant Program

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) created a $5 million Resiliency Hub Grant Program to provide funding in 2019 for the construction of community Resiliency Hubs with solar power and battery storage. The program provides funding to microgrid developers to offset some of the costs to build a Resiliency Hub in high-density, low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in Maryland. The program defines “Resiliency Hubs” as community facilities “designed to provide emergency heating and cooling capability, refrigeration of temperature-sensitive medications and milk from nursing mothers, plug power for charging of cell phone and computer batteries, as well as emergency lighting.” The purpose of a Resiliency Hub is to provide clean, reliable, and affordable energy during power grid outages and solar power investments in at-risk communities that can also serve to reduce the cost of electricity to the hosting site during normal grid operation. 

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