Large scale, highly reliable centralised electricity generation plants, typically fired by abundant high quality coal with electricity distributed via high voltage transmission systems are the norm for power supply in developed industrialised countries. However this paradigm does not adequately address the twin challenges:
(1) in industrialising countries — of population growth and urbanisation, associated pollution and ever increasing demands for reliable energy supplies for electricity, heating and cooling; and
(2) in developing countries — of the continued energy services deprivation of the widely distributed rural poor.
Recent political and technological developments have opened up commercial opportunities for domestic scale distributed systems which can provide both power and heat with improved reliability and reduced emissions and wastes. The new paradigm is known as distributed energy and power, more generally abbreviated to distributed generation.
This note discusses the rationale for distributed generation, its current status and some of the key issues, its benefits, risks and barriers and finally an outline of some of the relevant technologies and their applications in the built environment.