One of the areas of smart grid that is attracting some of the greatest interest is microgrids, and in this issue we present research from two different parts of the world – Canada and Japan. Clearly the smart grid will not happen overnight and rather it will be an evolutionary process with microgrids – literally a micro form, from as small as a building, of the full grid – being the most likely main building blocks. But apart from their smart grid role microgrids are also attracting interest for their potential use in providing electrification to rural off-grid communities. With around 1.4 billion people – approximately a fifth of the global population – without access to electricity, and the commitment to achieve universal access by 2030, the potential for suitable solutions is evident. In this connection, the forthcoming recommendations of the United Nations Foundation’s microgrids practitioner network group will be of much interest.