Not A Dirty Word

I can honestly say (although I have never agreed) that there was a long period, maybe the last 10 years in particular, when using electricity to heat water for your home was considered almost “dirty.” Common thoughts were that electricity was more expensive than propane or that electricity was produced primarily with coal and, by association, was then responsible for all the maladies of climate change.

Well, I am happy to report that the tide is turning. More and more, I am reading about “beneficial electrification.” Beneficial electrification is a term for replacing direct fossil fuel use (propane, heating oil, gasoline) with electricity in a way that reduces overall emissions and energy costs.

So, what has turned the tide? Nationwide, I believe it is the growth of renewable energy. The percentage of renewable energy in the average utilities’ power supply portfolio is simply much larger than it was 10 years ago. At Cherryland Electric Cooperative, we are 18 percent renewable energy; and when nuclear energy supply is accounted for, we stand at 56 percent carbon-free (maybe you have seen the ads or heard the radio announcements?).

Price is another thing that is turning the tide locally at your cooperative. We have had one rate increase in the last seven years and the cost of fossil fuels like propane have gone up 140 percent since 2008. The economics of heating water and/or your home with electricity in the form of efficient electric water heaters or air-to-air heat pumps and geothermal heat systems are now making sense to a wide range of consumers in all income classes.

When you add price to a low-carbon power supply, informed energy consumers are waking up to the fact that they can save hard-earned dollars AND support the environment at the same time simply by using more electricity for a basic need like heat. It is a triple win as the member reduces costs, the cooperative increases sales (which contributes to fewer future rate increases) and less greenhouse gases are emitted.

I believe beneficial electrification will be a common slogan in electric vehicle (EV) sales as we move into this new era as well. EVs are poised to become the poster child for the multiple wins of beneficial electrification. Think about it—less car fumes filling the air, no stops at the gas station, more electric sales for your cooperative and cleaner air for everyone to breath.

At my house, I’m using a robot powered by a lithium-ion battery to mow my lawn. Stop by sometime, we can watch “Mow-anna” do her thing while sipping on a cold beverage on my deck and talking about all the wins involved with electrifying your yard work (I have an awesome cordless electric weed trimmer too!).

Electricity has been benefiting society since the first light bulb. I am beyond happy that we are moving into a new time where the average consumer will be demanding more ways to electrify their lives and we all have one less dirty word to think about.

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6 Comments

  1. Rick Bowman October 2, 2018 at 12:54 pm - Reply

    Climate change happens. Has happened in the past, happening now, and will happen in the future. Electricity from Cherryland is dependable cean and a very good deal. The way that Cherryland is operated is spot on. So happy that my new home is still in Cherryland coverage, as I have seen how the other utilities operate and we can skip that! Thanks Tony! BTW, did you need an insurance rider for that pitbull lawn mower? 🤪

    • Tony Anderson October 2, 2018 at 1:35 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words. I did not get an insurance rider for the lawn mower. It hasn’t bit anyone yet and quietly keeps the deer out of the orchard too!

  2. Rob O'Keefe October 2, 2018 at 1:11 pm - Reply

    Tony,

    I love these kinds of updates. I might occasionally disagree with you on specific points, but I always respect your explanations, even when they don’t necessarily match my own views. You also deserve credit for being open here and sharing the “why” in terms of why CEC has made some of the decisions it has made.

    As someone who’s driven an EV (actually a PHEV, the Volt) for six years and expects to buy/lease only electric vehicles from now on, I especially appreciate you pointing out that, unlike years ago, quite often changing to a better environmental approach saves money, not costs more money. I got tired quickly of hearing from people who literally knew almost nothing about EV’s and mocked me for “spending $15 thousand more for a car that’s not any better for the environment.”

    No, the operating costs are so much lower, the Volt is overall cheaper than an equivalent Malibu, Camry, Accord, Fusion, etc. Similarly, geothermal and solar can absolutely save money, of course. To be clear, I am NOT claiming they will always save money and potential users should do the necessary research. We’re very seriously considering going solar in our house in Novi, have all the quotes ready to go in the spring, and ironically, the obstacle is that I get reimbursed by work for my Volt charging costs per month (average: $43/month) but if I go solar, I lose the reimbursement from work since I won’t have a bill (or more accurately, not much of one) since I’d have paid in advance for years.

    Again, thank you for your updates and comments.

    • Tony Anderson October 2, 2018 at 1:39 pm - Reply

      Thanks for the kind words and respect. We don’t have to always agree but we do have to get along in a civil manner. I sincerely appreciate that. I am really excited about EVs in the years to come. They will be a game changer and everyone will win.

  3. Glenn Arlt October 2, 2018 at 9:40 pm - Reply

    Tony, thank you for the article, it was well written. Like Rob, I’ve gone over to electrons to propel myself back and forth to work, errands, shopping – got a used Nissan Leaf EV 18 months ago. They make excellent sense used, as they still depreciate like a rock falling off a cliff. Under $14,000 for a off-lease car with 5700 miles, and pennies per mile to drive, plus “free” electricity at the parking deck at my job in Traverse City. We were so impressed, we got a used Volt a few months later. In fact, when we got the Leaf we subscribed to two solar panels through Cherryland on the Community Solar program and when we got the Volt, we subscribed to another! The Volt can go about half the distance the Leaf can on electrons, but then the gasoline generator comes on. I took a fair bit of teasing at work about my electric car, but in 2004 I began looking ahead and ordered a new Prius which took 9 months to arrive (there were waiting lists) and I’d had a hybrid ever since, until taking the plunge to an EV last spring. Love them both.

    • Tony Anderson October 3, 2018 at 1:23 pm - Reply

      Thank you for the kind words and for sharing your EV story. I don’t know about a red or blue wave but I am confident an EV wave is coming in our near future. Great to hear the stories from those out in front of the current. (pun intended)

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