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Ensuring Efficiency is Accomplished Hand-in-Hand with Electrification

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Energy efficiency is an important goal for utilities, regions, and individuals, but it's important to note that energy efficiency is not a silver bullet towards solving the energy issues (economic, environmental, reliability, or otherwise) and that the most effective energy efficiency efforts will be a tent pole accompanied by other efforts.

energy efficient home

That was the main point of the article from ACEEE's Senior Policy Director in this article titled "Electrification and efficiency: crafting an enduring relationship" that came out last week. I thought the members of this group would appreciate reading and discussing this take, with some notable quotes copied below for digestion and conversation starting:

  • Although some people may assume that efficiency’s reduction in electric use conflicts with electrification’s increase in load, in fact, energy efficiency is central to many electrification strategies. Like many relationships, it’s complicated. If done right, electrification presents opportunities to advance energy efficiency and its many benefits. But if not done carefully, it also poses challenges."
  • "The Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) argues that electrification is beneficial or in the public interest when it meets one or more of the following conditions without adversely affecting the other two: saving consumers money over the long run; enabling better grid management; and reducing negative environmental impacts."
  • " A growing set of energy-efficient technologies are types of electrification, including electric vehicles (EVs) and high-efficiency heat pumps for space and water heating."
  • " Some observers falsely view electrification as being at odds with efficiency, questioning why we should pursue efficiency policies to reduce kilowatt hours if we also pursue electrification to increase kilowatt hours. But this misses the bigger picture that both efficiency and electrification can reduce fossil fuel use, costs and emissions. In fact, efficiency policies become even more important in helping to ensure that increases in electric load from beneficial electrification do not unnecessarily increase electric supply costs or electric system emissions. And from a societal perspective we need large amounts of energy efficiency in the buildings, industry and transportation sector to meet climate goals."
  • " Many challenges lie ahead with electrification, including its impacts on the grid and how they will vary by region, time of day and season, whether the economics will be favorable for customers and its impacts on equity. For example, EVs will place a large amount of load on the grid, including during peak times, that could increase costs. Utility resource plans will need to understand when and where that load shows up in the distribution system and adjust resource needs in response. Strategies such as off-peak charging and managed charging can guide new load in a way that reduces risks and costs for utilities and their ratepayers. The same applies to use of heat pumps, which can increase early morning winter peaks."
Matt Chester's picture

Thank Matt for the Post!

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on March 25, 2019

Matt, recognizing the undisputed value of electricity efficiency for what it is: an unscalable resource.

"Unscalable" is a deliberate reference to like renewable resources: hydropower, geothermal, etc. Both follow a curve of diminishing returns: when we discover them, we can take advantage of them. When there are no more to be had, we're out of luck.

Depending on them to meet future energy needs relies on the bet we can eke out enough efficiency to meet the energy needs of an ever-growing population. And for those in the developing world, the outcome of that risky bet is not a thought experiment, it's a matter of survival.

Efficiency improvements help, but they will never, ever help enough.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on March 25, 2019

Was by no means claiming efficiency was the sole solution. But the point of this article was that the increased push to electrify everything so it can be decarbonized away from fossil fuels presents the opportunity to make sure it's being done in the most efficienty way possible and opens up increased opportunity for efficiency. Helping is the name of the game, no single solution needs to "help enough" alone-- that's the point, put all these tools together and create well-rounded and multifaceted solutions

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