For electrification to be considered beneficial, it must meet one or more of the following conditions without adversely affecting the other two:
- Saves consumers money over the long run;
- Enables better grid management; and
- Reduces negative environmental impacts.
Beneficial Electrification: Ensuring Electrification in the Public Interest explores policy and regulatory decisions that need to be made to accommodate innovations across the power sector that make it possible to electrify many energy uses currently fueled by heating oil, propane, and natural gas. The paper makes the case for what RAP calls beneficial electrification—in other words, electrification in the public interest.
The authors offer six principles that will help policymakers and regulators formulate and evaluate their electrification strategies to broadly secure the benefits:
- Put efficiency first: This approach prioritizes investments in customer-side efficiency resources whenever they would cost less or deliver more value than investing in energy infrastructure, fuels, and supply alternatives.
- Recognize the value of flexible load for grid operations: Much of the new electrification load does not need to be taken from the grid at the same time it is being used for water heat, transportation, or even space heating and cooling. With this advantage, the power system can serve this new load at cleaner and less expensive times of the day.
- Understand the emissions effects of changes in load: Knowing the generation source of the electricity being used to power devices like heat pumps and electric vehicles, and how that generation source may vary by time and place, is crucial for determining the overall emissions impacts of an electrified end use.
- Use emissions efficiency to measure the air impacts of beneficial electrification: Despite using more kilowatt-hours of electricity, consumers are in a position to use less energy overall, thereby producing fewer pounds of pollution per vehicle mile traveled or per gallon of water heated.
- Account for the lives of investments: Customers and utilities need accurate information so that when opportunities arise to replace infrastructure, it can be replaced with least-cost, emissions-efficient resources that will provide years of valuable flexibility to grid managers and savings to consumers.
- Design rates to encourage beneficial electrification: Time-sensitive pricing can encourage customers to shift usage to lower-cost times when the generation mix is cleaner—and allow grid managers to make more efficient use of existing infrastructure.
Finally, the paper looks at operational elements that states may want to consider as they move ahead with electrification.