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I promise it is not a fancy term for getting electrocuted “nicely?”

Beneficial Electrification is the process of adapting to and supporting a fully electric grid-based energy ecosystem that is powered by clean and sustainable resources such as solar and wind.   All that energy is then consumed by efficient, smart technologies and energy storage.  That process and its components must be able to accomplish specific things such as:

  • Save consumers money over time
  • Benefit the environment and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improve consumer quality of life and encourage growth of better technologies
  • Encourage a more resilient grid ecosystem

Let’s break this up into two parts–producing the energy and then, using it.

 

Producing clean energy meets all those needs

Energy produced by solar and wind are great ways to start this process. They are sustainable and clean.  Although both are great  energy sources, solar is the only one that you can easily put on your residential or commercial property without upsetting your neighbors. It does not create any noise pollution and for the most part, is pretty nice to look at.  It has that “coolness” factor.

Solar saves consumers money 
Solar reduces costs in the short-term and long-term. Most solar companies have access to financing options that make it easier to make the conversion to producing your own clean energy. Many also require no money upfront.  Your overall energy cost ends up being less than what you pay for now.  As utility costs go up over time (and they will), your costs will stay predictable and easy to manage.   What others in your community pay for energy during that same time will be much more than what you pay.  After all, you took control early on.  You have lower energy costs because you invested in an improvement for your home or business that pays you back.

The current tax incentives also help make going solar more attractive. As of the date of this article, the Federal Tax Credit is 26% of the cost of your system installation. Businesses, can also get bonus depreciation for the investment. Consult your tax advisor for more specifics.

Benefits the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
Solar is huge in respect to this. Emissions from greenhouse gases? What’s that? Since the sun is a pure, sustainable and renewable resource, the energy you produce from your solar panel system is as clean as it gets. It produces no pollution. The only think better is planting more trees. Go solar and plant some trees on your property and you are all set.

Here is a great “did you know” point. Did you know most power plants that consume fossil fuels also need water to turn that combustion into energy? That’s right. By putting solar panels on your home or business, you can conserve more than 600,000 gallons of water over the lifetime of you panels. That is one big swimming pool!

Improves consumer quality of life and encourages growth of better technologies
When you go solar, not only are you improving the quality of your life by reducing costs and feeling good about making a difference in the environment, you make a difference for you. Less money spent on your energy costs means more money available for things that improve your quality of life. That could be that new car you have wanted, that vacation your family has been putting off, or maybe just more money in the budget to get ahead on those bills that stress you out.

The more people that go solar, the better the technology will get. The panels can only convert so much electricity right now but the conversion technology and efficiency will improve over time. The more we support the industry, the better it gets. But the best part, is the impact it has on the demand.

The more power we create, the few power plants utilities need to build. That translates into less cost and fewer rate increases. 

Encourages a more resilient grid ecosystem
The more solar and wind power there is, the less chances of power outages and grid resource drain. Imagine during the summer when everyone turns on their cooling systems. All that power demand puts a strain on the grid system. This is primarily why utilities have to build “peaker plants.” These are power plants that are kept in reserve for high-demand times. When demand is high, the utility turns them on to make up for the power shortage. These plants have a lot of costs associated with them.

Imagine now, more homes and businesses, producing their own clean energy. There would be less demand on grid resources, less need for these back up plants and less resulting cost. Win-win right? This is only part of what needs to happen.

Before we talk about using our clean energy....

Let’s talk about storing it.

Energy Storages Systems (ESS) have come a long way over a just a few years.  With the explosive growth we have seen for Electric Vehicles (EVs), it’s no wonder.  Ever since Elon Musk propelled Tesla to the forefront of the technology, costs continue to come down for Lithium Ion batteries.   The cost for storage for powering those Teslas (and the dozens of EV models slated to come out in the years ahead) and for capturing the energy produced by your solar panels is coming down.  Contrary to common belief, they are on their way to becoming very affordable.

There are many benefits to storing the clean energy we produce.  Here are two of them–energy independence and energy security.

Energy Independence

The power you produce is yours, of course.  Use it to cover your energy need at night.  You can power your lights, appliances and just about everything you use electricity for.

Energy Security

If the power goes out, whether it be during the day or at night, you want to make sure you still have power.  Battery storage gives you that ability.  Imagine being the only house on your block with the lights on when the power goes out.

 

The Big Picture About Storage

In a Beneficial Electrification Model, energy storage represents something with big benefits.  Not only does it give us as consumers, independence and choice, it can also be used to provide power into a grid energy ecosystem in a time of need.  The excess energy stored in the batteries could be made readily available to all users of the grid system in times of peak demand or in a worse case, a major power outage or natural (or un-natural) disaster.  This kind of resource could almost entirely eliminate the need to build power plants fed by fossil fuels.  It would also mean, not power outages…ever!!!

Using our clean energy

The last step in Beneficial Electrification is how we use our clean energy.  In a prefect model, we would use technologies that consume electricity and meet the four criteria points we talked about earlier.  Here they are again.

  • Saves consumers money over time
  • Benefits the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions
  • Improves consumer quality of life and encourages growth of better technologies
  • Encourages a more resilient grid ecosystem

When thinking about Beneficial Electrification you want to stay focused on keeping the ball in the center of the table.   Everyone wants to save money.   At the eye of the energy cost storm are costs related to heating and cooling.   These systems too have come a long way.  I know what you are thinking though.  “If I am am cooling my home with electricity, I am going to use more and my electric bill is high enough as it is.”  Well, that is because it takes a lot of electricity.  However, if you have solar and are producing your own energy, what then….well, no increased cost.  It the utility is producing all of its energy from solar and wind, that is an added benefit.

Getting your mini-split on!

Conventional HVAC systems use a lot of power at each compressor startup cycle.  That happens more than a few times on a very hot summer day.   Global Warming is not a myth, and our days are getting hotter.  This means, higher electric bills.  In a previous blog post we talked about HVAC Heat Pump technologies and how they are changing the game.

These technologies can use 40% less energy to heat and cool your home than conventional systems.  They also run 24 hours a day so they help improve and maintain air quality like no other system. They use no fossil fuels and less energy consumption means lower costs and less drain on gird energy resources.

Nothing more fun to drive than an electric vehicle

Ever since the first Tesla or Nissan Leaf hit the pavement, the buzz is there is nothing better.  Nothing can stop the momentum of electric vehicles.  Driving an EV is not only fun (and fast–zero to 60 in 2.5 – 4.5 seconds) it leaves you with a pretty dang good feeling and, a shortness of breath.  You are not using any gas (scratch that from the budget).  You have very little maintenance cost.  A good electric vehicle has only 20 moving parts compared to a conventional automobile which has over 2000.  Are you good at math?   I am not but that is an easy one.  I guess we can scratch maintenance from the budget too.

More electric vehicles means less C02 emissions.  That means less pollution.  Ummm…I would say that is a good thing right?  On top of that, if you are charging your EV with solar energy, no electric fueling costs too!  Dumb question:  why have you not gone out and bought an EV yet?

Heating things up with heat pumps

Did you know that you can also find pool heaters, hot water heaters and dryers built on heat-pump technology?  That’s right!  This technology is a game-changer.  It takes heat from the air and injects into a room, water, space and presto!  And, all using less energy.

Getting smart with Smart Technology

We have seen so many advances with smart lightbulbs, smart appliances, switches, and more.  Smart technologies improve our quality of of life.  When your alarm system can disarm or you can unlock your front door when you come home, all automatically, we are talking about convenience.  When our outside camera can detect intruders or our phones can help us look in on our kids, that is security.  When we can ask Alexa, Google or Siri to turn off our lights or pause our TV, now that is cool!  When you can play games on your phone or experience Virtual Reality on an Oculus headset, that is even cooler!   I don’t know about you guys but when I was growing up all of that was something from the Jetsons.  Now, these things are part of our reality.  Either way, these technologies improve the quality of our lives.  They are fun and get better with each passing version of them

Encouraging a Beneficial Electrification Ecosystem

All of the technologies we have talked to about, if used as part of a Beneficial Electrification Ecosystem will not only help improve the quality of our lives but also make the grid, our communities, our planet, a better place.  Whether it be putting solar on our house, driving an electric vehicle, installing a heat-pump water heater, a variable heating and cooling system in our home or telling Alexa to close the garage door since you forgot to (oh wait! she did that automatically when you left the house!), all of these things make our lives easier and Mother Earth much happier.  After all, we don’t own this Earth, we are just her residents.

Learning more

If you would like to learn more about the technologies that can help you start a lifestyle conducive to Beneficial Electrification, feel free to visit our website.  We have many resources about solar, energy storage, mini-split HVAC systems, Heat Pump pool heaters, EV Chargers and more.

If you would like to learn more about Beneficial Electrification, there are many great web resources out on the Net.  One organization I know of is passionate about making this happen.  It is their mission.  Visit, the Beneficial Electrification League (BEL) website.  They advocate on our behalf.  Also, consider writing to your representatives and ask them to get bills passed that will help make this a reality.  It all starts with just one person, you.

 

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Alan is a solar and sustainable energy advocate. He has served the renewables industry for over 5 years for companies such as Solar City and Tesla and now acts as the Director of Business and Market Development for Solar Smart Living.

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