The way that we consume and produce energy is changing. Today we talk about what the future of energy looks like.
What does energy consumption look like going forward? How will we power our lives in 15 years? What changes can we expect to see at the utility scale as well as at the residential level? For answers to these questions and more, we spoke with Marc Romito, the Vice President of Enterprise Solutions at Elevation.
Electrification of everything.
“When looking at the big picture,” says Romito, “we’re going to see massive increases in consumption of electricity. The initiative to decarbonize the planet is going to be done through electrification.
“Not only are we going to see population growth and continued interconnected devices, but electrification of transportation will take place as well as electrification of what used to be gas and fuel oils.
“In order to decarbonize, we have to get away from fuel sources. And the best alternative is electricity. This is going to cause a major paradigm shift for electric producers, electric generators, and electric utilities. We’re looking at massive diversification in the tools and methods of energy generation and delivery.”
Changes in when electricity is consumed.
Romito explains: “An essential component for the future of energy is an ever-increasing importance on when energy is consumed. This is going to be fundamental. It’s going to drive how we behave, how we pay for energy, and when we use energy.
“What you’ll see is the influx of time-of-use pricing. Soon every utility in the United States is going to have time-of-use pricing.
“And most likely, many will also have a form of demand-based pricing. Not all times of the year or day are treated the same. As we electrify, we need to be thinking of behaviors, such as, when do people charge their cars, when do they turn on their HVAC systems, what times of day, and time of year, and in what regions, are the most energy intensive? When the grid gets so constrained, new resources will need to come online.”
Flexibility is key.
“As we turn more and more to renewable energy, we’ll need to embrace the concept of flexibility,” says Romito. “The utilities will be under the gun to modernize their fleet due to the increased amount of renewable energy on the grid. That, and electrification, are the drivers of this must-have flexibility.
“The grid operates 24/7/365. There are 8,760 hours in a year. Those hours are not created equal. Flexibility means that during the worst 20 hours of the year — times when there is the most pressure on the grid — the utilities will need to rethink from where, and how, they source energy. The American economy depends on its backbone of clean air, clean water, and available and affordable electricity. The energy has to come from someplace.
“What do resources look like? In the past, our tool kit included nuclear, coal, natural gas, maybe some diesel. But those are pollutants; those are emissions-based products. We’re going to need better tools.”
New technology will be more important than ever.
“One of the major tools in that kit is the untapped market of residential device integration and aggregation,” continues Romito. “Technology has equipped us — technologists and energy solution providers — to be able to aggregate residential devices intelligently so they are responsive to major grid events. They become a powerful tool to help utilities, and society, manage around those worst 20 hours of the year.
“The technology-enabled aggregation of residential distributed energy resources (DERs) means scaling those devices into a market or a platform that can be considered ‘resource adequate.’ It’s likely that the aggregation of DERs will become a major business model in the energy space.”
Regulation will evolve.
“The U.S. has dozens of public utility commissions and the current model of regulation is slow,” Romito says. “And a slow process doesn’t create an environment conducive to the dynamic future we’re predicting.
“As the regulatory model evolves, DER providers and grid operators will need to come together more often to review and refine what they’re doing, as well as make expenditures that aren’t conventional — as long as those expenditures are prudent to advancing the future of the grid.
“You can’t ask entities to go through a major paradigm shift without reexamining the regulatory model no more than you could have gotten Americans on the moon without having public and regulatory support behind NASA.”
The future of energy is collaboration.
As utilities rethink energy production, and as their resources become more flexible and their fleets more sophisticated, they’ll depend on partnerships with private entities that deploy distributed technologies in an intelligent way that benefits both the end consumer and the grid. Elevation works closely with major electrical utility providers nationwide to develop innovative energy-saving solutions. Contact us to learn more about our partnerships.