Beneficial Electrification: Efficient, Smart and Clean!

EVs and Beneficial Electrification

Electric cars are a win-win for utilities and electricity users.

Technological progress is making appliances and other electric devices more efficient. Advancements in power plant technology and renewable development will continue to reduce the environmental effect of the electric system. These two converging trends are making one thing very clear: electricity is a smart choice. As the electric system continues to become cleaner and more efficient, there is growing support for using electricity in new ways.

Encouraging the smart use of electricity in a strategic manner is a win-win for the electric cooperative and the electric consumer.

What is Beneficial Electrification?

The process of switching from another fuel source to electricity in order to benefit the energy user, the co-op/utility and the environment is referred to as beneficial electrification.

And let’s be clear, not all electrification is beneficial electrification. There really are three criteria that qualify a technology as beneficial electrification:

  1. The technology allows for better management of the electric grid.
  2. The technology has to save the consumer money in the long run.
  3. The technology reduces negative environmental impact.

Where do electric vehicles fit?

The rapidly developing market for electric vehicles provides a significant beneficial electrification opportunity for a variety of reasons. They reduce emissions, they save you money, they provide additional load to the utility and offer a great opportunity to better manage the grid.

How are electric vehicles good for the cooperative/utility?

The wider adoption of electric cars creates a massive and long-term growth opportunity for utilities suffering from stagnant and often declining electricity sales. It is estimated that in the United States a typical electric car would use 261 kWh monthly, increasing the household demand for electricity by 25 to 40%.

In addition to load growth, beneficial electrification allows utilities to better manage the electricity grid ultimately helping to control costs. By influencing when and where EV load affects the system by using storage programs like Stearns Electric ChargeWise program (aka charging overnight at home), electric cooperatives are able to utilize energy when its most abundant, avoid hours of peak demand and often take advantage of renewable generation sources. Efficiently managing the grid helps minimize the need to pay for additional generation capacity or distribution infrastructure upgrades as well.

How are electric vehicles good for the member-consumer?

Electric vehicles are widely praised for being safer, easier to maintain (no oil changes!) and performing better on the road with more acceleration and torque. Running on electricity in most parts of the country also costs much less than using gasoline especially if you take advantage of lower charging rates offered by many utilities for charging during off-peak hours (as discussed above). And overall electric vehicles are environmentally friendly as the produce no tailpipe emissions and have lower life cycle emissions than gasoline powered vehicles even if the electricity used to fuel the car comes from a coal burning power plant. (We’ll share more on that down the road – pun intended.)

The power sector is currently undergoing a period of unprecedented transformation. Energy efficiency and demand-response technologies are reducing power demand, while cheap renewable power and coal plant retirements are reducing the carbon intensity of the electric grid. At the same time, electric utilities are looking for new ways to reverse declining electricity sales. Tying these objectives together – increasing electricity sales and decreasing carbon emissions in a cost-effective way for consumers – can create win-win propositions for electric cooperatives, the environment and YOU.

2 thoughts on “Beneficial Electrification: Efficient, Smart and Clean!

  1. I may have missed it previously so please forgive me if this is redundant.
    Knowing that electricity costs vary: How do you pay for charging on the road? Are the charging stations like any other vending machine?

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    1. Tesla has a proprietary charging network and charging equipment which simply means that no other electric vehicles can charge using their stations. In addition for most Tesla models, charging is free at their network charging stations. This is unique to Tesla.

      For other electric vehicles its a little bit more complicated but there are plenty of options.

      There are three primary approaches: (1) pay-as-you-go, (2) monthly subscriptions and (3) free. Obviously, if given the opportunity, it makes sense to grab a free charge, even if for a relatively short period of time. These types of stations are typically courtesy of work place benefits or businesses that might gain patronage while you charge. Pay models vary greatly. Pay-as-you-go options will be most similar to standard gas stations in the sense that you pay a specific rate for the length of the charge or the amount of energy consumed. You swipe a credit card at the charging station. Finally, and most popular are charging station networks such as ChargePoint, Blink, Zef and many many more. These are third party entities that charge a monthly subscription fee to use charging stations in their network (compare the idea to your health insurance and using an in-network doctor). Typically you receive a membership card that you swipe or enter at charging stations – its a free charge at the time or purchase but remember you’re paying that subscription fee.

      If you purchase an EV, you’ll have to decide for yourself if its best to collect a wallet-full of membership cards; or if proper planning will allow you to avoid public charging unless you’re running very low on charge.

      It’s also important to remember that most EV owners charge over 85% of the time at their homes. Plug in at the end of the day, unplug in the morning before you leave. It’s a mindset that you have to switch to. At the national average of 12.5 cents per kWh electricity for charging is comparable to $1 per gallon of gasoline.

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