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Sometimes, the answer to a problem is right in front of your eyes. Conversations about energy often

Let’s do some time traveling and take a quick trip into the early decades of the 20th century. If your great-grandparents lived in a city or town, their home probably had electric lights and appliances. If they lived on a farm, chances are good they had no electricity and therefore no electric appliances. There had no refrigerators or washing machines. When they needed water for cooking or washing, they had to pull it up from a well and carry it back to the house in large heavy buckets. When the sun set, they lit candles or lanterns. Most likely, they sat outside for while watching the stars and then went to bed.

The Rural Electrification Act (REA) of 1936 changed the lives of millions of Americans by bringing electricity to areas that had been considered too remote for electric service. There is an absolutely heartbreaking chapter in Robert Caro’s multi-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson in which he describes the hardships endured by farm families in the generations before electricity was widely available.[1]

Electrification transformed our culture profoundly, setting the stage for decades of strong economic growth and prosperity. In retrospect, bringing electricity to virtually every community in the U.S. seems like a no-brainer. But in the 1930s, the idea was revolutionary.

I believe we’re on the edge of a similar revolution powered by electricity. In this revolution, electrification opens the door to a future in which less energy is wasted and more energy is used effectively. Electrification will also play a key role in reducing carbon emissions.

Electrifying the transportation sector, for example, would result in significantly less CO2 being released into the air from traditional internal combustion engines. [2] It would also substantially reduce harmful particulates that can promote disease, aggravate existing health conditions and shorten life expectancies. [3]

Nick Nigro, founder of Atlas Public Policy, [4] sees a direct connection between electric transportation and decarbonization. “Electrifying transportation is the single most important step we can take,” Nick says. “Regardless, when you look at the life cycle emissions of an EV, it is always better than its conventional counterpart … the EV is going to beat the conventional vehicle pound-for-pound on a carbon basis because the EV itself is so much more efficient at turning potential energy into kinetic energy.”

As more power companies shift to clean renewable fuels for generating electricity, the environmental advantages of EVs are multiplied. “There’s a widescale effort to decarbonize (electric power generation), so it’s kind of a ‘two-fer’ … you’re leveraging the decarbonization of the power sector, which is the power source for the battery in the EV,” Nick explains.

Here are two additional benefits of EVs: Since most people charge them at night during off-peak hours, they put less of a strain on the grid than if they were charged during peak hours. And because the winds are generally stronger at night, they can generate more electricity at night than during the day. “As we add more wind power onto the grid, there’s a real opportunity for EVs to absorb that additional nighttime capacity because they’re almost certainly parked overnight somewhere near a power outlet,” Nick says.

EVs are no longer a niche market. Here are some fascinating stats quoted from Bloomberg NEF’s Electric Vehicle Outlook:[5]

· Passenger EV sales jumped from 450,000 in 2015 to 2.1 million in 2019.

· By 2022 there will be over 500 different EV models available globally.

· By the mid-2020s EVs reach up-front price parity – without subsidies – with internal combustion vehicles in most segments, but there is wide variation by region.

· By 2040, over half of all passenger vehicles sold will be electric.

· EVs across all segments are already displacing 1 million barrels of oil demand per day.

· EVs and fuel cell vehicles reduce road CO2 emissions by 2.57Gt a year by 2040 – and are set for much larger reductions thereafter.

Autonomous self-driving EVs may bring even greater benefits to society, since it’s fair to assume that manufacturers will program their EVs to achieve maximum battery efficiency. Self-driving vehicles could “end up with energy savings of as much as 10 percent simply by making better decisions about braking, accelerating and turning than human drivers,” writes Akshat Rathi, a London-based reporter for Bloomberg News.

There is a strong connection between renewable energy sources, batteries, stabilizing demand and EVs. At this point, each of those phenomena are related, and moving together in a positive upward trend. This convergence bodes well for our economy and our environment.

This blog post is excerpted from Elena Cahill’s new upcoming book, POWER ECONOMICS: An Executive’s Guide to Energy Efficiency, Conservation, and Generation Strategies (Wiley, 2021). You can purchase or download copies of the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Wiley and other online booksellers.

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