NEW ORLEANS—From large, multistate G&Ts to smaller distribution cooperatives, the move toward beneficial electrification is real and taking consumer-members where they want to go: a world where the power they consume is cleaner, efficient and readily available, energy leaders told attendees at NRECA’s Annual Meeting.
“The view used to be the only way to improve the environment was less consumption of electricity,” said Jim Spiers, NRECA senior vice president of Business and Technology Strategies. “Now we’re really at a groundswell, this notion of sell more product and improve the environment. That’s a really good thing.”
Leaders from Great River Energy, Hoosier Energy, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives, Tri-State G&T, Wake EMC, NRECA, Touchstone Energy® and the Electric Power Research Institute were among those gathered at multiple sessions March 1-4 to share beneficial electrification successes and strategies.
Beneficial electrification includes the use of electricity to power devices where at least one of the following goals is met without adversely impacting the others: consumer savings, reduced pollution, grid resiliency and improved products and quality of life.
NRECA launched the Beneficial Electrification League in 2018 in partnership with the Natural Resources Defense Council. Several co-ops have since participated in BEL-sponsored Electrify! conferences across the country.
Both Tri-State, based in Westminster, Colorado, and Hoosier Energy in Bloomington, Indiana, are using beneficial electrification strategies to make a transition in their generation portfolios, their CEOs told conference attendees.
“We think about how electrifying the economy can provide environmental benefits as we transition to cleaner technology and resources,” Donna Walker, president and CEO of Hoosier Energy, told fellow co-op leaders.
TriState G&T, which last year helped form the first state chapter of the Beneficial Electrification League in Colorado, plans to meet half its load with renewable energy by 2024.
TriState G&T, Hoosier Energy, Great River Energy, North Carolina Electric Cooperatives and Wake EMC are among several co-ops that, with beneficial electrification in mind, are finding ways to support electric vehicles. They are installing charging networks across their territory, holding EV car shows or making EVs available for their members to test drive.
GRE is also part of a pilot with EPRI to launch shipping container gardens warmed by electric lights to grow fresh vegetables throughout the winter in the upper Midwest. Wake EMC is developing a microgrid to meet a homebuilder’s desire for a fully resilient neighborhood.
More co-ops are expected to participate in Electrify! conferences across the country, including Alaska’s Cordova Electric Cooperative on April 27-29, which will include a tour of its battery storage project.
“Until Hoosier Energy hosted Electrify Indiana!, I personally wasn’t sure what beneficial electrification was,” Walker told the conference. Now she recalls it as one of her favorite events in her 24 years at the co-op.
For a day and a half, 125 diverse stakeholders brainstormed on cleaner and resilient energy use with savings in mind.
“We were all in the room sharing what we do know and what we don’t know and learning from each other,” she said.
Tri-State also hosted an Electrify Colorado! conference last year.
“There is such a bright future for this work,” said CEO Duane Highley. “This is a benefit for our members. To electrify makes things more reliable. I’m having a hard time finding a downside to this.”