09 26, 2022

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Energy is at the center of the U.S.’s fight against climate change. To meaningfully curb carbon emissions, we have to add a massive amount of renewable energy resources and their supporting technologies to the electricity grid. But clean energy is only one side of the equation. The other side is electrification: powering everything in our daily lives from the electric socket.

Essentially, we need to be more plugged in. Households, businesses and institutions must shift all of their energy consumption to electricity in order for the U.S. to eliminate the lion’s share of its carbon emissions and reach net zero. Our most polluting sectors, like buildings, transportation and even parts of heavy industry, are in prime positions to electrify their energy consumption. And there are clear economic benefits to making this switch.

The race to net zero is on, and clean electrification isn’t an overnight transition. If energy users make the move soon than later, they’ll see a greater reduction in their carbon footprint over time and reap the immediate and long-term benefits of clean electricity.

What is clean electrification?

Clean electrification means using low-carbon electricity to power activities previously powered by burning natural gas, oil, propane or other energy sources. With the rise of renewable energy and its continued upward trajectory, electricity has become the fastest and most realistic path to decarbonizing the U.S.

In fact, clean electrification is already underway. More and more, we’re powering our lighting, heating, cooling, appliances, vehicles and equipment with electricity generated by renewables:

Why is clean electricity important?

To mitigate the impacts of climate change, we need to cut carbon emissions aggressively. From record-breaking heat waves to historic floods in the US, we are getting a glimpse into our future if no action is taken. Not only does this affect our homes, communities and public safety, but there are also drastic economic impacts.

The U.S. government estimates that floods, droughts, wildfires and hurricanes made worse by climate change could cost the federal budget upwards of $2 trillion annually by the end of the century. In another estimate, Deloitte found that the US economy would lose $14.5 trillion through 2050 if it doesn’t decarbonize. These costs will be felt by everyone, making it even more critical for public and private sectors alike to move toward a cleaner power source by electrifying operations.

What are the benefits?

Embracing clean electrification has many positive outcomes, from saving money to saving the planet.

Fewer Emissions: One of the most important reasons to electrify the U.S. economy is to prioritize energy sources that are cleaner and safer for the public. By 2030, electricity sector emissions are projected to drop about 70-75% below 2005 levels. Electricity generated by renewable sources like solar and wind doesn’t emit harmful emissions that worsen air pollution and global warming. As our energy mix becomes more sustainable, our carbon footprints diminish, and air quality improves.

Lower Energy Costs: Businesses and organizations that transition to clean electricity can make progress towards emissions targets and climate-proof their operations while still saving money on energy. Tapping into more energy-efficient technologies and abundant renewable resources helps users reduce energy costs and protect themselves from fluctuating fossil fuel prices. Researchers project that retail electricity costs will decline between 5-7% over the next decade.

Smarter Technology: Clean electrification also means bringing in modernized technology. Many clean electricity solutions use advanced control software and are connected through the Internet of Things, which helps inform smarter and more cost-effective energy decisions. For example, using smart electricity meters can help energy providers anticipate consumption changes and give consumers more transparency and knowledge of their use.

Electrification solutions that support a clean energy transition

Much of the technology needed to embrace clean electrification already exists. Businesses, cities, builders, schools and transit providers can adopt and implement electrification solutions that cut emissions, support clean energy growth, save money and improve efficiency.

Electrified Transport:

  • Smart EV Charging Infrastructure: Transportation contributed to over 25% of all greenhouse gas emissions in 2020, making it the largest contributor in the country. Creating adequate electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure is a key component to electrifying this sector. With smart EV chargers that can communicate with the grid to charge when rates are lower, and electricity is cleaner, EVs will become an even bigger player in clean electrification.
  • Electric Fleets: This is another key component of electrifying transportation. Corporate fleets make up approximately 20 percent of total registered vehicles, and there are over 900 thousand buses on the road in the U.S. Businesses, school districts and transit agencies can cut their emissions and reap other electrification benefits by transitioning to electric fleet vehicles.

Building Electrification:

  • Electric Appliances and Systems: Electric-powered heat pumps, water heaters, lighting and refrigerators that are equipped with the control and monitoring technologies available today give energy users more visibility and control of building systems and energy consumption.
  • Distributed Energy Resources (DERs): DERs are small-scale energy sources that operate on-site at a building or facility. Common DERs include localized energy storage, rooftop solar arrays, solar-plus-storage systems and microgrids. By adopting DERs, energy users can produce and consume their own clean electricity and minimize purchases from the grid – especially when electricity prices are high.

Energy Flexibility:

  • Demand Response: Companies and organizations with a large electrical load can open up a new revenue stream by enrolling in utility and grid-sponsored demand response and flexibility programs. When consumers and businesses use the most energy, it is critical to ensure that electricity supply meets demand. Demand response provides payments to facilities that agree to temporarily reduce energy when the grid is stressed. When users participate in demand response programs, they get compensated for their efforts and give the grid the flexibility it needs to better serve everyone.

What’s next?

Everyone has a role to play in clean electrification, big or small. Advancing its progress requires collaboration and ambition that the U.S. economy has only seen a handful of times before. By setting aggressive targets, charting realistic roadmaps and implementing smart solutions, we can power our lives with low-carbon energy, ensuring that our future is a clean one. Learn how to turn your climate ambition into climate action.

What is clean electrification infographic

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