Plugging Members Into Beneficial Electrification Opportunities
By Tom Polikalas, Beneficial Electrification League
Valley Electric Association always looks for ways to brighten its communities and help its member-owners save energy and money. Beneficial electrification is one of those ways.
The topic is growing in importance throughout Nevada, the nation and world. It’s a relatively new term in many areas of the country, but it is one VEA CEO Mark Stallons knows from his extensive background in the electric co-op industry.
“The communities we serve and VEA’s members are already benefitting from beneficial electrification in many ways,” Mark says. “Our staff and I are also looking diligently for new opportunities to help expand these benefits. Getting good information to our members is an important first step.”
What is beneficial electrification? It is the act of replacing direct fossil fuel use, such as propane, natural gas and gasoline, with electricity in a way that reduces emissions and energy costs.
The nonprofit Beneficial Electrification League brings together diverse organizations across the country to help members save money on their energy bills, improve the economy and help achieve environmental goals through beneficial electrification.
“We can often heat our homes, businesses, schools and other government buildings more economically using cost-effective technologies, such as heat pumps,” Keith explains. “We can transition our transportation systems—cars, school buses, long-haul trucking and rail—to run on clean electricity, the cheapest fuel available. Increasing the use of electricity in these ways will save money, reduce pollution and produce other beneficial results.”
According to the Beneficial Electrification League, beneficial electrification includes the application of electricity to end-uses where doing so satisfies at least one of the following conditions, without adversely affecting the others:
- Saves consumers money over time.
- Benefits the environment and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
- Improves product quality or consumer quality of life.
- Fosters a more robust and resilient grid.
“Many VEA members are already ahead of the curve on beneficial electrification,” Mark says. “Heat pumps for heating and cooling homes are the standard practice of builders in our service territory. Pahrump High School was a pioneer among Nevada schools in the use of ground-coupled heat pumps. Our school districts are looking into electric school buses. Other members have bought or are looking to buy electric cars.”
Mark notes that in the middle of the day, the electric power provided by VEA is largely generated by renewable energy, making the use of electricity even more environmentally benign than in other parts of the country.
“Members participating in VEA’s Community Solar Array and SolPower residential PV program are also running their appliances, heat pumps and other electric end uses on clean locally produced power—a contribution to local, sustainable economic development—and further reducing emissions,” Mark says.
Mark and Keith agree technology is a key driver making beneficial electrification increasingly viable and compelling. Advances during the past decade have improved performance and reduced costs of owning and operating electric appliances, electric heating and cooling systems, electric vehicles and other products, ranging from electric lawn mowers to electric farming and mining equipment.
“There’s a lot of research and work underway by the U.S. Department of Energy and major manufacturers that we expect will produce even more cost-effective products in the near future,” Keith says.
President Biden signed The Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act into law in mid-November, providing funding for the following array of programs that can accelerate beneficial electrification:
- $550 million in new funding for the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, which can help cities pursue beneficial electrification projects.
- $500 million of new funding for schools for energy-efficiency and renewable energy improvements at facilities.
- $5 billion through the U.S Environmental Protection Agency to replace thousands of polluting diesel school buses with electric and low-emission school buses.
The intersection of improved technologies and additional funding will provide opportunities for homeowners, businesses, schools and governments to save energy and money, generate additional economic benefits, reduce emissions, and enable a more efficient and resilient electric grid.
Helping electric cooperatives such as VEA seize those opportunities is part of the core mission of the Beneficial Electrification League.
“We look forward to working with VEA to provide more information to its members and facilitating stakeholder communication and collaboration throughout Nevada,” Keith says. “The future is electrifying.”
The Beneficial Electrification League will coordinate a stakeholder forum in Nevada on several topics related to beneficial electrification. To be added to the notification list, email Tom Polikalas at email@example.com. For more information about the organization, visit be-league.com.