Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

 

Supporting the Development of Resilience Hubs

A brown stone apartment building
Maycroft Apartments affordable housing complex in Washington, D.C. where non-profit Jubilee Housing is working to incorporate a community resiliency room with the ability to provide power for several days following a grid outage due to extreme weather or another disturbance. (Source: Adaptation Clearinghouse)

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

  • 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 GHG emissions.

Social /Equity

  • Resilience hubs that are designed and managed by the community are intended to serve the needs of the community on a daily basis and should be utilized as a part of the permanent community infrastructure, unlike temporary emergency shelters.
  • 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 between public agencies and the private owner or operator to establish and retrofit the hub facility.

Legal

  • Resilience hubs that are implemented in a single facility are often not subject to microgrid regulations. Instead, resilience hubs, in most instances, likely need only comply with local rules regarding interconnection and islanding.

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 GHG emissions and support social equity. The report draws on lessons from two cities, Washington, DC, and Baltimore, Maryland, that are actively exploring the resilience hub concept. USDN emphasizes that hubs should play a role in shifting power from government to residents and community-based organizations. Therefore, it is essential that communities drive the design, site selection, and management of resilience hubs.

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

Pilot projects, such as the Resiliency Room in the Maycroft Apartments in Washington D.C., provide a proof of concept for financing and implementing new resilient energy solutions such as resilience hubs. A non-profit affordable housing developer, Jubilee Housing, is working to incorporate a “resilience 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 experienced rapid gentrification. The project will provide affordable housing and will renovate the complex's basement into a resilience 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 from the macrogrid and provide power for three days during grid outages due to severe weather or other disruptions. During power outages, the resilience 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 for access.

Maryland Resiliency Hub Grant Program

The Maryland Energy Administration (MEA) created a $5 million Resiliency Hub Grant Program (for FY 2019) to provide funding for the construction of community resilience hubs with solar power and battery storage. The program provides funding to microgrid developers to offset some of the costs to build a resilience hub in high-density, low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in Maryland. The program ranks applications based upon the ratio of low- and moderate-income people served. The program defines “resilience 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 phones and computer batteries, and emergency lighting.” Under this program, the purpose of a resilience 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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