#49 – Inside Our Industry – The Electrification of Everything

Posted on | Inside Our Industry

We have had a lot of discussion over the past few months on electric vehicles, but vehicles aren’t the only thing “going electric”. Following is the introduction to an article that details the pitfalls, challenges, and rewards of electrifying just about everything.

The Electrification of Everything: What You Need to Know
WSJ.com  |  Amy Myers Jaffe  |  May 15, 2021

 If you’ve lost power anytime recently, you’ve come face to face with one of the fundamental truths about energy today: There are a lot of things we once could do without electricity that now require it.

You’ve also come face to face with one of the hottest, and most poorly understood, buzz phrases in energy—the “electrification of everything.”

The concept, most simply put, is that more of the energy we use will come from the electric socket. Instead of having fuels like natural gas or oil or gasoline flow directly into our homes, offices, manufacturing facilities and cars, those fuels—and other sources of energy—will increasingly be converted to electricity first.

The idea is being pushed by several groups with a vested interest in seeing it happen—most notably, environmentalists and the tech industry. But in some sense, consumers have already made the choice to move toward at least the “electrification of a lot more things,” if not everything. That’s because our smartphones and computers and all the other devices that attach to them require electric power. So electrification is happening, whether we’ve made a conscious decision to electrify or not.

And that trend will only accelerate. The Biden administration’s infrastructure bill, for instance, has set aside $174 billion for electric vehicles and related public charging stations. An additional $100 billion is allocated to bringing broadband to those who currently lack it. In California, electric heat pumps are gaining traction as more than 26 of the state’s counties and cities have enacted bans on natural-gas hookups in new construction. Other places have done the same, and there’s no doubt many others across the country will follow.

In total, according to a study from Princeton University, electrifying nearly all transport and buildings could contribute to doubling or more the amount of electricity used in the U.S. by 2050. That would lift electricity’s share of total energy used to close to 50% from about 20% today.

But while the idea of such a radical transformation of our energy system is a simple one, it raises a host of complex questions. Among them: What are the implications of getting from here to there? What are the possible benefits? What are the possible risks? And if this change is inevitable, what should we be doing to prepare for it?

Because here’s another fundamental truth about energy today: The electrification of (almost) everything is coming, and we’re just not ready for it.

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