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2020 will be known as the year Utilities Embraced their role In Decarbonization

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CEO, Sunverge Energy

Martin is responsible for strategy, development, delivery and operations of Sunverge’s advanced energy platform. He is an industry-recognized thought-leader and expert on energy management...

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  • Feb 7, 2020

This item is part of the Predictions & Trends for 2020 SPECIAL ISSUE, click here for more

In 2030, at the end of this decade, we’ll look back to 2020 as the year utilities fully embraced the powerful role they can play in the decarbonization of the economy. We are already seeing the shift. In the past two years, major utilities like Duke Energy and Xcel Energy have announced zero carbon goals. These bellwethers are just the beginning. As customers and policymakers increasingly prioritize clean and distributed energy resources, what near-term steps will utilities take to meet these changing demands? 

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The electrification of transportation is a major part of the answer. In 2020, expect to see utilities accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles and sooth range anxiety by offering home EV charging-as-a-service, financing home EV chargers, and pairing it with friendly tariff constructs -- all included as a charge on the customer’s monthly bill. Be on the lookout for a surge in vehicle-to-home and vehicle-to-grid pilot announcements. Accelerated deployment of charging technology will also create more flexibility for grid operators, as aggregated electricity from EV batteries will be increasingly used to smooth volatility in the electric load curve and other grid services.

The electrification of homes and buildings won’t stop with EV charging. Other energy-intensive functions, such as HVACs, cooking and water heating will be electrified. And the digitization of homes and business will make for more energy aware homes and buildings. Utilities will play a major role in these efforts and will start to offer integrated energy efficiency (EE), demand response (DR) and distributed energy resource (DER) programs.

The movement toward electrification will result in increased demand for power - a fact that seems contradictory to meeting decarbonization efforts. But along with electrification, the deployment of clean distributed energy resources, such as solar and storage, will also dramatically accelerate. As more distributed resources are added to the grid, utilities will rely on software-enabled control, intelligence and visibility to enable more flexible load management integrated with local generation and grid supply.

These simultaneous trends - increased electrification and the move toward a more dynamic, flexible grid - give utilities the tools they need to meet their decarbonization goals while better engaging customers and increasing revenue and service offerings. This will be the year when these efforts really start to show results. 

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Feb 7, 2020

The movement toward electrification will result in increased demand for power - a fact that seems contradictory to meeting decarbonization efforts

Will this result in short-term carbon emission increases and, if so, will that be used as a signal by detractors about why this strategy isn't ideal?

Bill Meehan's picture
Bill Meehan on Feb 13, 2020

Great article.  We are in for an interesting ride over the next decade. Edison would be proud!

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