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 both 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:
- The technology allows for better management of the electric grid.
- The technology has to save the consumer money in the long run.
- 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. Electric vehicles reduce emissions, save you money, provide additional load to the utility and offer a great opportunity to better manage the power 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 of energy 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’s ChargeWise program (aka charging overnight at home), electric cooperatives are able to utilize energy when it’s 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.