EPRI Models the Future
Francisco de la Chesnaye is a Senior Program Manager at EPRI.
There are many reasons to believe that electricity will serve a broader role in meeting society's future energy needs. As the supply mix continues to reduce its carbon footprint and as electric vehicles become more affordable and sophisticated, economic and environmental benefits of increased electrification become more apparent.
This prompts policymakers, consumers, and electric power companies to investigate what a pivot to an electrified future would look like and require.
EPRI launched its National Electrification Assessment to evaluate the feasibility of transforming the U.S. energy sector between 2020 and 2050, and what will drive it. The study evaluates various scenarios that result in electricity's share of final energy use increasing from twenty percent today to thirty or forty percent or more in the future.
Consumer adoption of economically viable electrification technologies as an alternative to fossil fuel will substantially increase electricity's share of final energy while also providing significant benefits for society, customers, and utilities.
This study is one element of the multi-faceted EPRI Electrification Initiative. In 2018, we are initiating a series of more detailed state-level studies to further understanding of the opportunities, costs, benefits, key drivers, and challenges ahead as we move to a more electric future.
EPRI developed a new energy end-use module for its U.S. Regional Economy, Greenhouse Gas, and Energy (US-REGEN) model to better assess the potential for electrification. This new capability equips EPRI to represent end-use technologies across the industrial, commercial, residential, and transportation sectors in much more detail.
The objective of the national assessment is to examine the potential drivers for an expanded role of electricity in the U.S. energy system, along with the broader implications for fuel markets, environmental outcomes, and resource planning.
The analysis takes in different technology costs and performance inputs on electric technologies across the four economic sectors. Then, under various scenarios, it projects the mix of energy demand and electric generation over time based on the underlying economics.
These are not predictions but insights from "what if" scenarios. A detailed report on EPRI's National Electrification Assessment will be available at the end of March, but key themes are emerging.
In all scenarios, the century-long trend of electrification continues, driven by technological change and consumer choice, with transportation playing an important role in this future growth.
Among those scenarios:
Continued improvements in energy efficiency, combined with the shift from non-electric to much more efficient electric technologies, result in falling energy use across all scenarios.
Efficient electrification lowers system-wide carbon emissions, and improves air quality.
Natural gas remains an important fuel and demand for natural gas is projected to grow across most scenarios alongside the electrification trend.
Changes on the demand side coupled with rapid changes in electric supply will create a wide array of challenges and opportunities for system planners and operators in the power sector.
Several more transformative shifts are emerging on the horizon that could increase electric demand while improving overall resource efficiency and offering new or enhanced services. Examples include mobility-as-service models and autonomous vehicles, indoor agriculture, additive manufacturing, and electro-synthesis of chemicals.
For many applications, from transportation to heating to manufacturing, electricity can provide a more efficient and economical alternative, with lower environmental impact, for the same or better quality service. EPRI calls this Efficient Electrification, and we believe it is a key emerging issue for the energy sector.