Electrification Is Creating New Loads, But Is It Electrical Energy Efficiency?

Electrification is an old word that is suddenly back in our vocabulary

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Technology is changing our world at a rapid pace and in ways we couldn’t have imagined even a decade ago. Electrification — converting a machine or system from fuel to electricity use — is part of this change. Converting oil lamps to light bulbs, wood-fired stoves to ductless-heat pumps, and buying an electric car instead of a gas-fueled car are all examples of electrification. Advances in technology lower the cost of new products, but other factors such as convenience, safety, and environmental impacts also contribute to their adoption.

In the case of electric vehicles, increasing battery power means that cars can now exceed a 200-mile driving range on a single charge. And it’s likely the range will grow as the technology improves. As more people drive electric vehicles, our electricity use will increase, but the overall lower costs of auto ownership, maintenance, and fuel makes the Northwest better off adding this electricity load.

But is electrification energy efficiency?

The Council’s advisory committee that estimates the savings of energy efficiency measures will need to consider some measures where incentives may be given to someone converting a system from fuel to electricity. In these cases, the Council has given clear guidance that electrification is not conservation as defined in the Northwest Power Act. That is, electrification is not electrical energy efficiency. So our estimate of savings from energy efficiency will not include negative or positive savings from electrification.

In many cases, electrification can lead to desirable economic and environmental outcomes. But we should make sure that the funding designated for energy efficiency goes to that resource, and not to pursue these other benefits.


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