Beneficial electrification may be a phrase you have never heard. In fact, it’s a fairly new phrase to the electric utility industry as a whole.
Beneficial electrification is really taking a look at the industry in a different way. Historically, for example, appliances fueled on site, such as gas water heaters, were considered more efficient and easier on the environment than generating and distributing electricity over the grid. However, this outlook may not have taken into account the flexibility of the grid. As a shift to renewable technologies occurs and the existing generation technologies become cleaner, electricity uses less fossil fuel per kilowatt-hour of energy produced, and it continues to reduce the overall environmental effect of the grid. So, therein lies the shift from conventional thinking.
In the future, there will be more opportunities so we, the distribution cooperative, will be able to facilitate your electricity use in a safer and more reliable, affordable and smart manner.
One way is community storage. There is currently significant effort being made by utilities and manufacturers to create a battery capable of storing enough electricity to accommodate fluctuations on the electric grid. But by looking at this issue in another way, there already exists a very large battery, in the way of electric water heaters located in many of the homes served by Orange County REMC and the other 17 electric cooperatives of our power supplier. These water heaters are the heart of the concept of “community storage.” This project would be like the community solar project that I’ve written about before and would aggregate controlled residential water heaters to build local energy-storage capability. There have been studies done on the national level that shows storage-enabled water heating can lead to significant member savings annually.
A more straightforward means of beneficial electrification are the energy efficiency programs that we provide. Examples of energy efficiency include installing LEDs, programmable thermostats and the purchase of EnergyStar appliances. Orange County REMC offers incentives and/or rebates for all these programs. (You can read more information about our incentives and rebates on page 8.)
Finally, as the industry looks into the future, there seems to be a huge opportunity in the electric vehicle market. Virtually all the major automobile manufacturers have declared, at a minimum, a significant shift to electric vehicles in the near future, including General Motors’ head of product development who, in October 2017, stated, “General Motors believes in an all-electric future.” This statement accompanied the announcement of GM rolling out two new electric vehicles over the next 18 months and a total of 20 over the next six years. How does the local distribution cooperative facilitate this beneficial electrification? We are working on it.
Matthew C. Deaton