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.