Beneficial electrification: by Loren Howard
In the past couple of years, the term “beneficial electrification” has been used in many different contexts and by many different organizations. So, what is beneficial electrification? Let’s start with the obvious – electricity does many useful functions for each of us. Electricity lights our homes, directly or indirectly heats and cools our homes, provides us entertainment via TV or in the more recent past, the Internet. Electricity is also instrumental in our work whether that is a retail business, ranching or farming. In short, electricity has become crucial in almost all aspects of our lives, even more so than when REC brought electricity to the unserved in the Valley more than 80 years ago.
How much more can electricity do? I think the term beneficial electrification is meant to consider that question. Let’s talk electric vehicles. Now whether you think an electric vehicle is in your future or not, electric vehicles have become more affordable, charging stations more ubiquitous and mandates for increasing their adoption more pressing. In 2019, the Colorado legislature passed five bills relating to the increased adoption of electric vehicles. Some states have implemented requirements on the number of electric vehicles sold, though Colorado has not gone that far. While still rather pricey, electric vehicles will be like cell phones and will, in my estimation, be a large percentage of the vehicles on the road in 10 years.
Where else will electricity supplant or replace other forms of energy use? Without delving into the recent issue regarding the change in REC’s electric rate design, heating and cooling via the use of either air source or ground source heat pumps are also prime candidates to replace natural gas or propane heating systems and existing air conditioning systems. This change will not occur until there is a significant replacement of the existing house population, but I think the future will include a trend to this type of HVAC. One of REC’s members is currently installing an advanced air source heat pump that will make these units more available in climates like exist in the Valley.
Electricity has many advantages as an energy source – multiple methods to generate it, easy to use, easy to distribute and easy to manage. Once the challenge of efficiently storing electricity is solved, electricity will be used in many ways to continue making lives more convenient, the environment cleaner and each of us more productive.
Finally, I wish for a blessed winter season for you and the REC family.