By Carolyn Fortuna
Have you ever wondered why so many of the items we use on a daily basis are switching away from fossil fuel power to electricity? About 80% of the world’s GHG emissions are a direct or indirect result of extraction and burning of fossil fuels. Electricity offers a more efficient, lower-cost, and sustainable energy alternative to fossil fuel power.
Consumer energy technologies fall into two basic types: those that run on electricity (anything that plugs in or has a battery) and those that directly combust fuels like oil, gasoline, natural gas, or biomass. Let’s zoom in specifically on vehicles to understand the importance of electrification.
The gas-powered internal combustion engine is intrinsically inefficient. Less than a quarter of the energy consumed is used to drive the vehicle — the balance is rejected as waste heat. The preferable scenario is to choose electricity to drive our vehicles of all sizes and capacities. If that were the case, more than 90% of the energy devoted to our personal transportation would be deployed usefully. Let’s translate that in a different way. We could provide the driving potential of a gallon of gasoline by substituting as few as 8 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity.
And then there is wind and solar power use, which is definitely on the rise around the globe as a result of lowered prices, technology advancements, and growing demand from consumers. When governmental policies and incentives favor clean renewable energy, new technologies like batteries, energy storage devices, smart power inverters, and real-time energy management systems become more common in our neighborhoods.
Did you know that 29 US states have renewable power mandates? That’s according to data from the North Carolina Clean Energy Technology Center, which has been compiling a database of state incentives for renewables and efficiency for more than 20 years. (Note: Federal funding to keep this an open and free resource has recently been discontinued.) Eight more states have renewable energy goals, and the District of Columbia, home of the nation’s capital, has a mandate to use renewables for half its power use by 2032.
The nature of the electricity grid is changing dramatically, as are people’s understanding of community environmental goals The lowering of GHG emissions rates of the US electric sector has occurred due to technology advances and cost reductions of cleaner electric generation.
“The nuclear and coal-fired generation facilities are legacies of an extinct age,” California Public Utilities Commission officials wrote in comments filed in November 2017 with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. “Many of them are being retired because they are too expensive to compete with emerging technologies and do not offer the reliability and resiliency as their proponents claim.”
Global renewable fuel growth is situated today primarily in the electricity generation sector, and every device, appliance, or vehicle that runs on electricity benefits from the grid’s every incremental improvement. The International Energy Agency says that renewables will supply 30% of global power generation by 2022, up from 24% currently.
We can explore widespread electrification in the future energy system of the US if we accept certain assumptions for electric technologies, such as cost, energy use, electricity use, and electric load profiles. Energy storage, particularly battery and thermal storage, was not available for many utilities as recently as 2015. Since then, public utilities commissions have become more proactive in incorporating emerging technologies such as storage to provide system flexibility and improve resilience and reliability attributes.
With the advent of energy efficiency and renewable resources, the suite of tools available to utilities has expanded to include demand management. No longer can we say that the large utilities lack the necessary capacity to electrify.
When you electrify, you reduce what would otherwise have been higher GHS emissions with fuel oil, natural gas, propane, or gasoline. Did you know that the environmental performance of end-use electric equipment will improve over the lifetime of the product? The same can’t be said of products that are powered by fossil fuels.
So what can you do to make a difference in our planet’s health through the electrification of nearly everything in your life? Here are just a few options available to you.
Policy goals are shifting from the simple energy conservation focus toward achieving GHG limits. As early as 2009, the US set policy goals to achieve GHG emissions reductions. Because environmentally beneficial electrification is necessary to achieve our nation’s GHG emission reduction goals, states must find ways to encourage it.
Despite policy uncertainty, the US remains the second-largest growth market for renewables. The increasing shift to clean renewable energy is reducing our consumption of fossil fueled power, even against political currents that set up barriers and misinformation about the power and place of the electrification of everything in our lives.
Want to become immersed in ideas about electrification through solar? Intersolar North America is a solar exhibition and conference that focuses on photovoltaics, PV production technologies, smart renewable energy, and solar thermal technologies. With events spanning four continents, Intersolar is the world’s leading exhibition series for the solar industry and its partners. It unites people and companies from around the world with the aim of increasing the share of solar power in our energy supply.
Co-located with Intersolar North America, ees (Electrical Energy Storage) North Americaprovides an opportunity to explore energy storage systems in combination with PV and beyond. “Because we are the first major energy storage event in North America each year, our attendees see the newest technologies and hear about the latest trends first,” Florian Wessendorf and Daniel Strowitzki, managing directors of ees North America, said in a joint statement. “That commitment to staying ahead of market trends is behind our newest special exhibition segment, Power2Drive, which will examine the cross-section of solar technology, energy storage, and smart transportation and will grow into a future industry hotspot.”
Integrated solar-plus-storage applications are an increasingly predominant force in accelerating the renewable energy transition toward the electrification of everything in our everyday lives. Isn’t it time that you, too, joined the important and innovative movement to electrify your life and assist in the goals to use clean renewable energy to save the planet?
Thanks to InterSolar North America and ees North American for supporting this post.