Electrification 2022, Just Ten Weeks to Go



Fortnightly Magazine - January 2022

The health and safety of all who attend every EPRI event is the highest priority. As such, EPRI has decided to reschedule the Electrification 2022 International Conference & Exposition to June 28-30, 2022 at the Charlotte Convention Center.

Excitement is building for Electrification 2022, the colossal event to be held by the Electric Power Research Institute in March. Everyone who gathers in Charlotte for the theme of, Building a Net-Zero Future for All, will be electrified by the groundbreaking information found there that EPRI is known for. 

The enormity of Electrification 2022, this not-to-be-missed event, almost defies the printed page. Once experienced, you never will miss another. That is why PUF turned to an expert in all things EPRI, to explain why you must attend.

Here PUF talks with EPRI's Rob Chapman, a leader who understands the importance of this educational experience, as well as how much is gained by in-person interaction at the many offerings to be found in Charlotte. Listen in on this conversation, after which, PUF will see you at Electrification 2022.

PUF's Steve Mitnick: What excites you about Electrification 2022?

Rob Chapman: Number one is we're back in person. We are all looking forward to the opportunity to network with peers and to engage face-to-face. Last year, we were able to connect virtually and those were great conversations, but we know it will be a more dynamic meeting event because of that in-person interaction.

Beyond that, I'm excited about the people who are attending. We have a diverse group of business, policy, and government leaders, as well as academic stakeholders who will be in attendance.

We'll have vendors on our exhibit floor showing emerging technologies with in-depth exploration about what's going on with decarbonization and net zero across the economy. That's exciting, because as we think about decarbonization, it's not just what happens in the power sector, but what we can do to enable other sectors of the economy to reduce their carbon footprint.

PUF: You have so many sessions, so many star speakers from across industries and it'll be packed, because EPRI has drawing power. Give a sense of how loaded this event is going to be.

Rob Chapman: We're touching so many areas of electrification at this event. We'll have transport mobility but also buildings, industrial conversions, and innovations. This year we'll also have a policy and regulatory track because we know today how critical their role is in realizing some of these ambitious electrification endeavors.

Another track we have is focused on the business case for electrification. This is where we'll dig into the cost benefits and economics of electrification, which is an area many folks are trying to figure out to understand whether or not it makes sense to invest in electrification for end-use technologies. This topic impacts many stakeholders including regulators, utilities, and infrastructure manufacturers. And Electrification 2022 will have all of those people together in the same room.

PUF: If you're a commissioner, senior staffer, or in state government from around the country, why should they attend Electrification 2022?

Rob Chapman: Regulators have that obligation to serve all their constituents, and one of the biggest opportunities with the clean energy transition is the ability to create more equitable, accessible energy systems.

Regulators are faced with questions like how do we enable the infrastructure to support electrification? What changes to process and protocol do we need to get in front of? How is technology evolving? How do we partner with utilities and other key stakeholders to get in front of this transition?

Change is going to require investment and regulators are looking at this and saying, help me understand the cost and benefits. Many of the benefits of electrification go beyond energy efficiency.

We want to help explain the full picture, which includes things like more reliable, resilient energy systems that support consumer demands in any condition. Electrification can also provide improvements to air quality, economic advantages for customers, and, again, this opportunity to create safer, more equitable energy systems that ensures no one is left behind.

Similarly, policymakers are focused on how we enable this transition. Sometimes, just having it be a cost-effective solution isn't enough. 

In many cases, we may have to help drive consumer behaviors through incentives and public education. This is why it's so important that we are learning about what's working in other places across the globe and adopting those best practices whenever possible.

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There are some great examples in Norway and other places where they've imposed EV targets and had a lot of success. From a policy perspective, we want to consider what worked there that might help advance this going forward in other places.

PUF: So much has happened in this area since EPRI held its last electrification conference in Long Beach in 2018.

Rob Chapman: Look at the changes since 2018, when we had just a handful of electric vehicles as options out there. One of the things we heard then was that sixty-six percent of consumers either want an SUV or a truck, but they didn't exist in the marketplace.

Now we have the Ford F-150 Lightning, as well as Rivian and Tesla trucks, and many models of SUVs, which are all electric. Consumers are eager and excited for these options and automakers are jumping in to get a piece of the pie.

On the fleet side, you have Amazon purchasing one hundred thousand electric last-mile delivery vehicles. They expect to introduce ten thousand by the end of 2021, ramping up to thirty thousand by the end of 2023, and one hundred thousand by 2030.

When you think about the infrastructure needed to support these fleet adoptions and the massive increase in consumer usage, this is a large load. We want to be able to meet this opportunity and interest because the technologies are available and consumer preferences are here. 

PUF: There's going to be much more at the conference, right?

Rob Chapman: Absolutely. Buildings and industry are the other two big pieces.

When we talk about buildings, energy efficiency has played a huge role in terms of supporting objectives around building efficiency. Now we are looking at how we take advanced heat pump technologies and apply those within building envelopes. This gets beyond the efficiency and the decarbonization aspect.

We're seeing advancements in heat pump technology to operate in colder climates, which is critical. We still have a way to go to drive down the overall cost of that compared to natural gas, but the technology is evolving quickly.

There's a resiliency aspect to this, especially as you think about putting solar in storage at buildings. We have several projects working with the California Energy Commission in disadvantaged communities to electrify the buildings, put solar on the roof, and introduce battery and energy storage systems. Part of these projects is electrification, but it is also building energy resiliency and reliability in the event of extended outages.

You're going to see lots from the building envelope perspective in terms of how we reduce energy through some of these emerging technologies.

LED lighting has enabled a new industry around indoor agriculture because it imitates the spectrum of the sunlight to a much closer degree. Some will say indoor agriculture is going to be one of the biggest building and industry trends going forward, with opportunities to get food closer to the centers where it's being consumed, eliminate food deserts, and be able to reduce water and chemicals usage while improving the overall quality of the produce.

PUF: There's this big demonstration floor with cars, trucks, and buses, and new technologies. Talk about that.

Rob Chapman: The visual aspect of this event is very important to us. Rather than sitting in sessions all day long, we want participants to be walking the exhibit floor to engage with the vendors who are producing these cutting edge emerging technologies, network, and understand the different perspectives and partnership opportunities.

We want participants to see and experience first-hand the solutions that are coming and how they may fit into their strategies moving forward.

One of the biggest areas we see coming out of the infrastructure bill is around electrification of school buses. There will be plenty of exhibitors showcasing electric vehicles and charging wares, and with electrification of school buses, we want to think about how these sites can give back to the grid as they sit idle. Could they become mobile storage? How do we build these to be a valuable asset to the grid?

Indoor agriculture will also be on full display along with some of the emerging building technology projects and products like advanced heat pumps. We'll even have someone from the industrial side, where electrification of venues showcase how this technology makes sense from a process perspective. 

Our exhibition hall will focus on these three areas �" transport, buildings, and industrial �" with vendors coming in to show their wares in all those areas, provide a show and tell, and be ready to engage in conversations about how to apply these new ideas to a specific project or community.

PUF: What do you think people will take away from this conference? Is this going to supercharge the electrification movement?

Rob Chapman: We have all of these products coming out that can compete with the alternative fossil fuels. California is going to institute a policy that eliminates all gas-powered lawn equipment going forward. 

You're beginning to see policy that's going to drive the adoption of various technologies and what we want folks to walk away with is an understanding that many of these technologies exist today.

We'd love to get consumer groups at this conference, whether it be school children, or others that walk in off the street. We understand when a consumer touches this technology and experiences an electric vehicle, or uses a battery lawnmower, they say, this is great product and I want to take advantage of it. 

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PUF: This is going to be a tremendous experience, including the NASCAR visit. Talk about all of that opportunity.

Rob Chapman: That gets into the network element of the event. We started with pre-conferences that can bring people together to help shape their agenda for the week so they can maximize their participation. The intent of this is important, to give face-to-face time to network with peers, engage with folks, and to see, touch, and experience the latest innovations. After you've connected and seen these new and emerging ideas, the event concludes with an evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.

We are encouraging folks to come experience the entire week. It's a chance for us to get back together, network, and set new ideas and projects in motion. Obviously, we will make sure this is a safe environment so everyone can be at ease.

Come in early, take advantage of the pre-conference workshops, plan the week, and benefit from participating. I can't wait to be there, and I can't wait to see everyone.