Summary

“Electrification” can create new opportunities to achieve key national economic and environmental goals. There are many opportunities across the residential and commercial sectors. Advances in electric technologies continue to improve our quality of life, while significant decreases in the electricity sector's greenhouse gas emissions are making electricity more appealing from an environmental perspective. Attendees learned how environmental benefits, increased affordability, and economic progress are not mutually exclusive, and how a low-carbon economy of the future can be approached through electrification.

 

HIGHLIGHTS

 

Barbara Tyran, Executive Director, Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI)

  • “Efficient Electrification” means to use less electricity where we can so that we can use more where we should.
  • EPRI is looking at efficient electrification in three categories: mobility, heating and cooling, and new applications.
  • Advanced meters are making it possible to collect data about the energy usage of gas, water, and telecommunication utilities (smart meters are present in approximately 50 percent of homes in the United States). Using this data, researchers can improve technologies to reduce costs and energy usage.
  • One million plug-in electric vehicles (EVs) were sold in the United States between December 2010 and October 2018. EPRI has found that the increase in sales of EVs correlates to the increase in the number of EV models available to consumers. By 2022, EPRI predicts that consumer choice will increase to about 90 EV models. In addition, battery range is increasing, which lessens “range anxiety” for consumers. Looking ahead, we will begin to see more models, longer-lasting batteries, quick charging, and more autonomous cars.
  • Indoor agriculture is another source of growing electricity demand. It is increasing in popularity because it improves air quality, consumes less water, requires less land, uses fewer pesticides, creates more yield, and reduces the cost of transportation to consumers.
  • Emerging and enabling technologies are creating yet more demand for electricity, including the sharing economy (ZipCar, Netflix, Airbnb…), cryptocurrency (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ripple…), augmented reality, and blockchain transactions. Cryptocurrencies and blockchain transactions, in particular, require a lot of electricity.
  • A study EPRI released on April 4, 2018, about electrification in the United States found that although there's been a marked increase in end-use electricity demand, electricity costs have decreased as have emissions, and there is greater availability of electricity.

 

Steve Koep, Board Member, Beneficial Electrification League (BEL)

  • The Beneficial Electrification League (BEL) focuses on promoting the wide-scale implementation of beneficial electrification technologies. The League was founded late last year by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) and the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).
  • BEL defines beneficial electrification as: “The application of electricity to end-uses that would otherwise use fossil fuels and where doing so satisfies at least one of the following conditions, without adversely affecting others:
    • Saves consumers money over time
    • Benefits the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
    • Improves product quality or consumer quality of life, fosters a more robust and resilient grid.”
  • The National Renewable Energy Laboratory's Electrification Futures Study (EFS) is a multi-year research effort that will result in a series of publications, tools, and data looking at the future of electrification. The first report was published in 2017. The EFS is looking at three scenarios: (1) Reference, with no changes to technology, society, or policy; (2) Medium Electrification, with limited changes and innovation, but not at a rapid pace; (3) High Electrification, with favorable conditions for electrification and aggressive adoption.
  • Electrification is a global mega-trend: there are plenty of areas that still need to be electrified, or which are adopting more and better equipment running on electricity.
  • About 1 million water heaters will need to be replaced soon, and California is leading the nation in the adoption of electric water heaters. In the United States, 45 million electric water heaters have the capacity to store 540 gWh of energy.
  • Beneficial electrification is a strategic effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but requires cooperation among consumers, advocates, policymakers, and manufacturers. Immediate action can be taken through the greater adoption of EVs, high-efficiency electric heating, and electric agricultural applications.

 

Keith Dennis, Senior Director, Consumer-Member Engagement, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

  • NRECA is a trade association of about 900 electric co-ops, spanning 47 states.
  • If the nation is going to meet tougher emission standards, more states and co-ops will need to electrify. Electricity generation has been emitting less carbon dioxide and fewer other pollutants, making the grid cleaner. Electrical devices and the grid have also become more efficient, which also helps reduce emissions.
  • EVs are a very trendy form of electrification, but water heaters are too often overlooked as prime candidates for electrification. By controlling when the water heater is turned on, one can optimize one's energy costs and decrease emissions. For instance, the water heater could run in the middle of the night, when rates are low, or in the middle of the day, when solar panels are generating low-cost electricity. In this way, water heaters can be used as a form of energy storage (water heating is a major user of energy).
  • Other forms of electrification include rock crushers that no longer rely on diesel, minimizing noise and lessening pollution; an all-electric John Deere tractor for agricultural use (which can more easily use satellite and drone data to optimize farming operations); and electric school buses. If school buses all became electric, operating costs would be halved, falling from $2 billion to $1 billion annually.
  • The future is electric, and companies that embrace that will benefit.

 

Derek Murrow, Senior Director, Climate & Clean Energy Program, National Resource Defense Council (NRDC)

  • Why is electrification important? Simply because we are not on track when it comes to decreasing our carbon emissions. The nation needs to get to net-zero emissions by 2050 to properly address climate change.
  • The three pathways to achieving emission reductions are: energy efficiency, cleaning up the grid, and electrification.
  • There has been a substantial reduction in the cost of clean energy technologies. For instance, since 2008, the price of LED light bulbs has decreased by 94 percent.
  • We need to begin thinking more broadly about what we, as consumers and influencers, can do to help electrify the nation. Buses, both public and school, can become electric. Also, we can increase the availability of EV charging stations that are equipped with high-speed charging capabilities.
  • To achieve decarbonization, we need three things: energy efficiency (use less energy), electrification (use clean fuel), and demand flexibility (consume energy at the right time).
  • From a policy perspective, we need research and development at the federal level, and, at the federal and state levels, development incentives, standards, and markets.
  • Congress has real opportunities to pass an infrastructure bill and appropriations for the Department of Energy that will provide for the greater adoption of beneficial electrification.