What is “Beneficial Electrification”?

The League asserts that Beneficial Electrification includes:

The application of electricity to end-uses that would otherwise consume fossil fuels (e.g., natural gas, propane, oil, gasoline) where doing so satisfies at least one of following conditions, without adversely affecting the others:

  • save consumers money over time;
  • benefit the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
  • improve product quality or consumer quality of life; or
  • foster a more robust and resilient grid.

Beneficial Electrification programs are a valuable opportunity to engage both electric utilities and environmental groups in the effort to identify solutions that work well for the end-use consumer, local communities and the environment.

What is the difference between “strategic electrification,” “efficient electrification,” and Beneficial Electrification?

All three are terms that get to the same basic concept and could be used interchangeably for the most part.

What trends are driving opportunities for Beneficial Electrification?

The environmental benefits of choosing to use electricity over on-site fossil fuel combustion to power homes, transportation, businesses, and industry are increasing. Several factors are contributing to this trend: Greenhouse gas emission rates of grid-generated electricity are steadily decreasing; end-use efficiency of electrical appliances continues to improve; penetration of variable renewable electricity production on the grid is rising creating the need for flexible loads; and new electric technologies are available and are decreasing in price.

Many studies say that to achieve deep greenhouse gas reductions, increased electrification is required. A study by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, for example, finds: The key to meeting GHG goals is “widespread electrification of passenger vehicles, building heating, and industry heating.”

What are some common opportunities for Beneficial Electrification?
Choosing electricity to heat homes, heat water for homes, and power electric vehicles are common residential opportunities. In the commercial and industrial space, choosing electric agricultural pumps, trucks, buses, forklifts, farm equipment, compressors, or cooking equipment are just some of the major opportunities for Beneficial Electrification.
Isn’t all electrification “beneficial”?
Different stakeholders will have different views on this question. Without question, electrification in general provides many benefits that are well known. The National Academy of Engineers lists electrification as the most significant engineering achievement of all time. Historical data from research by the World Bank demonstrates that access to electricity is one of the most powerful economic development multipliers, enabling people around the world to break free from subsistence and prosper. However, some stakeholders place differing levels of importance on economic and environmental benefits and impacts. As a result, the Beneficial Electrification League (BE-L) works to ensure that electrification efforts meet objectives that are widely viewed as beneficial to all parties.
What are some good ways to determine if an electrification project would be considered beneficial by a wide range of stakeholders?
In 2017, the Regulatory Assistance Project (RAP) developed a simple test to help screen electrification projects that are beneficial to meeting universal goals of policymakers. This simple test can assist stakeholders in determining if an electrification project fits a broad definition of efficiency and should therefore be eligible for support of energy efficiency programs. Under this test, a project or measure represents Beneficial Electrification if it meets one of more of three criteria, without adversely affecting the other two:
  1. Saves consumers money over the long run;
  2. Reduces environmental impacts; and
  3. Enables better grid management.
Electrification projects that meet this test help to secure a number of national priorities for the American public and represent the “sweet spot” where economic and consumer benefits, environmental improvement, and enhanced reliability and resilience occur or are protected simultaneously by design.
Does Beneficial Electrification result in reduced “total energy use”
The simple answer to this question is No. Beneficial electrification might reduce total energy use, but not necessarily. Electrification of end uses could result in lower costs to consumers and emissions reductions without reducing total energy consumption. For example, an electric water heater powered by renewable wind or solar power or other electricity source that saves consumers money, reduces carbon emissions, and helps the grid operate more efficiently is definitely an example of beneficial electrification. But calculating whether it uses more or less total Btus of energy than a natural gas water heater requires necessarily making somewhat arbitrary and complex assumptions about how to account for the wind or solar or other energy source used in making the electricity. Total energy use in this sense is not the metric of performance for beneficial electrification.
What changes are needed to support Beneficial Electrification?
Beneficial Electrification requires evolution of policy and education of policy makers and the general public. The Beneficial Electrification League (BE-L) is working to bring about the changes required, including this Web site which provides resources for interested parties.
What can I do?
The Beneficial Electrification League invites you to become a Beneficial Electrification Ambassador! We seek to provide you with information and resources to drive the future in the direction that it needs to go — towards Beneficial Electrification of more end uses. Please make use of our resources and pass on the message. If you are in a position to support the organization and our mission, please contact us.