Time to Change the Game?
Austin Whitman is VP, Energy Markets at FirstFuel Software, where he is responsible for company strategy and product innovation. Over his seventeen-year career he has advised dozens of the world’s largest utilities and investors on issues of policy, technology, strategy, and finance.
For electrification to reach its full potential, utility customers need to install electric vehicles, heat pumps, induction ranges, and other electrified equipment. In the past, when utilities have sought to influence consumer choices, they have launched "programs" to promote specific technologies.
These programs have featured products from light bulbs, to energy audits, to load-curtailment rebates. They have increased the energy productivity of the economy while saving customers money. It might seem logical to use programs to drive customer awareness and adoption of the newest electrified equipment.
Before going too far down this path, however, it would be wise to consider whether traditional programs provide the best template to promote electrification. Widespread electrification has some critical implications for utility operations - including potential downsides. It also presents a major growth opportunity for utilities.
As utilities and regulators weigh their options, they should look for flexible, faster-yielding initiatives better aligned with electrification's strategic potential. Setting up electrification programs in the model of energy-efficiency programs would trigger intensive planning processes, long launch times, and high administrative costs. Handling electrification proposals as an extension of core utility investments and operations could eliminate those hurdles and accelerate growth.