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2022 Electric Trends

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Mike Carter's picture
Senior Engineer Questline, Inc.

Mike Carter is a Sr. Engineer for Tech Resource's Questline service. Mike has a BS Engineering and MBA degree from The Ohio State University. He has worked with various EPRI centers supporting...

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  • Nov 16, 2021
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We see major trends in sustainability, cybersecurity and beneficial electrification for the electric power segment in 2022.

Sustainability

When major oil and gas companies begin to pivot away from fossil fuels and start investing in renewable energy, hydrogen production and carbon capture, you know sustainability is a real trend. ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investing has also gained a foot hold, making companies that score highly on environmental and societal responsibility scales very attractive investments. President Biden has set a goal to achieve carbon-free electricity by 2035. Asset manager BlackRock intends to divest itself of companies that do not achieve net-zero by 2050. Even among consumers, sustainability is prevalent and growing in their choices of food, fashion, and lifestyle (electric vehicles).

The Edison Electric Institute (EEI) has championed a Clean Energy Vision. Presently, 40 percent of our electricity comes from clean, carbon-free sources, including nuclear energy, hydropower, wind, and solar energy. The electric power sector’s carbon emissions are 40% below a 2005 baseline, the lowest level since 1978. Over the past 10 years, more than half of new electricity generation capacity was wind and solar. Expect more of the same in 2022.

Cybersecurity

Electric distribution systems are following the lead of the bulk power system in beefing up their cyber defenses. The deployment of interconnected smart devices throughout the electric distribution system puts energy utilities on the radar of cyber criminals. Grid control systems and end-use solar power and energy storage systems are particularly attractive targets for entry.

The results of a recent performance audit by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) indicate that the electricity grid's distribution systems are increasingly vulnerable to cyber-attacks. While no cybersecurity incident has yet to disrupt the North American grid’s distribution system, a 2015 power blackout in the Ukraine and April’s Colonial Pipeline shutdown in the U.S. are shots across the bow. Colonial paid the hackers a $4.4 million ransom.

EEI member companies invested $67.7 billion in 2020 to enhance the energy grid and to further support grid security efforts. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) Electricity Information Sharing and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) has established the Cybersecurity Risk Information Sharing Program which disseminates responses and alerts on cyber threats through a secure portal. The EEI Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council's Cyber Mutual Assistance program (whose member serve 80% of the population) provides services, personnel or equipment in advance of, or in the event of, a cyber attack disruption. Still, expect an electric distribution system cyberattack in 2022.

Beneficial Electrification

Replacing direct fossil fuel use (e.g., natural gas, propane, heating oil, gasoline) with electricity in a way that reduces overall emissions and energy costs is beneficial to customers. The pandemic has been a catalyst for distance learning, massive open online course (MOOCs), telemedicine, 5G infrastructure, virtual reality, and anywhere operations. These developments, along with low-earth orbit satellite communications, has reduced the need for travel using passenger vehicles. So, electric transportation has moved beyond passenger cars to tractor-trailers, airplanes, school buses, transit buses, personal aerial vehicles, and e-bikes.

Beneficial electrification improves our quality of life by reducing site emissions, noise levels, and personal safety. It helps meet sustainability targets. The global microchip shortage will slow electric vehicle (EV) production for most manufacturers in 2022. However, the Biden plan for 500,000 EV public charging stations and expected tougher fuel economy standards will curb ICE car sales. The rising price of natural gas, mainly due to increased exporting of liquified natural gas and decreased natural gas inventories, will further drive beneficial electrification in 2022.

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Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Nov 18, 2021

It is not so easy. they must be cost-effective processes.

Mike Carter's picture
Mike Carter on Nov 22, 2021

Dr. Khashab,  It definitely is not so easy. The industry has generally agreed that Beneficial Electrification must satisfy at least one of the following conditions without adversely affecting the others:
Consumer

  • Save money on energy spend
  • Benefit the environment 
  • Improve consumer quality of life

Utility grid

  • Increase grid resilience

There must be an overall benefit to the consumer. Also, it is rarely ever a great idea to put all your eggs in one basket.

Dr. Amal Khashab's picture
Dr. Amal Khashab on Nov 23, 2021

Therefore, I said it is not so easy.  Some items could not be monetized properly . This has an impact on economic justification.

Doug Houseman's picture
Doug Houseman on Nov 18, 2021

Dropping to a single network source for all energy means having to really focus on reliability and residency.

It also means having to have security of supply.

Miss on either count and the idea of electrification will become generator heaven with more emissions per kWH than with coal.

This transition has to be done right.

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