Lori Burkhart is Managing Editor of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
If you didn't attend the Electric Power Research Institute's Electrification 2018 International Conference and Exposition held in Long Beach, California August 20-23, believe me, you'll wish you had. With over seventeen hundred attendees, powerful speakers, and an amazing exhibition hall chock full of the latest technology, it was indeed special.
EPRI President and CEO, Mike Howard, kicked off the event with a warm welcome to the attendees, letting them know they were going to spend a few days with the various industry's best and brightest minds, exploring electrification in the context of the global energy system.
Promised was an up-close look at the benefits that advanced end-use technologies can bring in terms of more customer value via lower costs, less energy usage, reduced emissions, better environmental outcomes, and increased productivity.
A master of understatement, that doesn't begin to explain the mind-blowing array of talent, impressive knowledge, and technology that we had the pleasure of being exposed to at this conference.
The technology available to peruse on the show floor was too numerous to mention. It was hard to miss what looked like a tractor trailer, but turned out to be an indoor modular farm, or TerraFarm, which aims to change the future of agriculture.
Electric transportation was everywhere. There was the big yellow school bus powered only with electric batteries, plentiful electric cars, and charging stations on display. Look out world, electric vehicles are coming!
Smart electric homes were featured that use EPRI's Advanced Energy Communities program combined with its Advanced Buildings Program, because once builders embed smart devices into new all-electric homes, apparently there is no escaping voice assistants like Amazon Alexa.
Pedro Pizarro, President and CEO of Edison International, was dazzling as he leaped on stage post-Mike Howard to discuss smart meters, grid modernization, Edison's and EPRI's commitment to a digital transformation, and the fascinating electrification efforts at the Port of Long Beach.
Pointing out that Tesla is proof the EV has arrived, was Ira Ehrenpreis, founder and managing partner of DBL Partners. He added that Tesla's Gigafactory has built the largest battery manufacturing plant in the world.
PUF's Editor-in-Chief, Steve Mitnick, hosted the first panel of the conference, an executive conversation titled Inspiration, Electrification. We heard Terry Basham, President and CEO, Evergy, Inc., declare that EV range anxiety is real.
Paula Gold-Williams, President and CEO, CPS Energy, said that change and behavior modification are the hardest to accomplish, but molecules and electrons love everyone. Gil Quinones, President and CEO, NYPA, noted NYPA produces twenty-five percent of electricity in New York and seventy-five percent is from hydroelectric. Kit Kennedy, Senior Director, NRDC, sees electrification as the way to meet NRDC's climate goals.
Notable speakers and panelists were too numerous to mention. Arshad Mansoor, EPRI Senior V.P. of Research and Development, speaking on technology and electrification and how far the industry has come, pointed out that every assumption that had been made on battery technology was wrong.
He then introduced a panel that knew where the EV industry stood. It was Kion North America President and CEO, Vincent Halma; Proterra President and CEO, Ryan Popple; and UPS V.P. Global Energy and Procurement, Mike Whitlatch.
General Motors V.P., Global Strategy, Michael Ableson, spoke on the future of electric mobility and GM's plans to deploy an autonomous vehicle in 2019 in a dense urban environment for ride sharing. He said that GM sees EV adoption as mandatory and is committed to introducing twenty new EV models between now and 2023.
But I digress from the fun. FirstEnergy featured just-baked cookies, thousand of them, all fresh every day, from electric convection ovens. See the hook? Those cookies were fabulous, just ask the PUF team.
Salt River Project used virtual reality to let you be the line workers as they traversed dams, went up in helicopters, or rappelled down from very scary places. You gained an appreciation for that tough job.
I must mention the California Boardwalk party on Wednesday night. We were treated to an array of food trucks lined up, and it was impossible to try them all. Did you? There was music, outdoor games, and the place was rocking. EPRI knows how to throw a party.
In an exciting speech that showed the momentum behind the substance that EPRI captured in Long Beach, Duke Energy executive V.P., Doug Esamann, announced the next EPRI conference to be held April 6-9, 2020 in Charlotte, N.C. Mark your calendars now, because, trust me, you don't want to miss it.