What is Electrification?
by Bob Shively, Enerdynamics President and Lead Facilitator
In recent years, companies whose business success depends on electric consumption – electric utilities, independent power producers, and retail marketers, for example – have dealt with flat or declining electric usage in the U.S. If this becomes a long-term trend, business models for these companies will be called into question. A possible counter to falling electric usage is electrification, which is the act of consumers adopting new electric end-use technologies. In a developed economy such as the U.S., this generally implies consumers replacing fossil fuel technologies with electric technologies.
According to a recent assessment by the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), electrification has the potential to provide benefits including lower costs and energy use for consumers, reduced air emissions and water use, and increased electric grid flexibility and efficiency. In a later blog post we will explore the current status of electrification as demonstrated at the recent EPRI Electrification 2018 conference.
First, let’s explore technologies that may be key to early electrification outcomes.
Key electrification opportunities
The following graphic from the EPRI report describes key end-uses that are candidates for electrification:
Source: Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) U.S. National Electrification Assessment
Three key end-use opportunities for initial growth in electrification arise in consumer transport, buildings, and industrial process heat:
What will the impacts of electrification be?
So will electrification be the key to unlocking growth for the future electric company? Jim Avery, a former officer of San Diego Gas and Electric Company, famously responded to a question about flat loads by saying: “Think I’m worried about growth? I’m worried about how the hell do I serve all of that.”
Others in the industry may be less optimistic, and how quickly electrification can take hold, or if it will at all, are open to debate. In the end, it will be consumers who decide when, and whether, to make investments in new technologies.
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