U.S. electricity load could double by 2050. The industry is focused on how to meet that need equitably and securely, panelists at a recent technical conference said.
The electrification of transportation, heating and other end uses necessary for the United States to meet its decarbonization goals will require the country to double its electricity load by 2050, panelists said Thursday at a Federal Energy Regulatory Commission technical conference. With that additional load will come opportunities, responsibilities and challenges, they said.
The panelists frequently acknowledged the need to consider issues of equity, affordability and environmental justice throughout the energy transition. “If we don’t address those issues, what are we doing? We’re not accomplishing anything,” said FERC Chairman Richard Glick.
They also raised cybersecurity concerns. It will be a constant battle to secure the grid, said Carlos Casablanca, managing director of distribution planning and analysis at American Electric Power Service Corp. But he added that AEP “does not believe that these risks are brought upon by electrification efforts alone, as these risks already exist in our industry and we actively manage them.”
With the United States now aiming to eliminate economywide carbon emissions within 30 years, federal regulators announced the technical conference as a chance to initiate a dialogue “on how to prepare for an increasingly electrified future.”
Commissioners also took the opportunity to voice some of their own concerns.
Commissioner Neil Chatterjee acknowledged that FERC is “not really in the driver’s seat on electrification,” but the commission has to understand how it will impact the wholesale markets it does oversee. State and federal policymakers are unleashing new electricity demand, and “we must make sure at every turn we send clear and consistent signals to the industry and investment community,” he said.
“Mixed signals will delay the development at a time when we should be looking toward the grid of the future,” Chatterjee said. But he added that reliability and the creation of efficiency through competition must remain FERC’s focus.
Commissioner Allison Clements said she is focused on ensuring customer benefits do not get lost in the cracks between different regulatory jurisdictions. She wants regulators to consider “how we should think about costs and benefits of new investment across the systems,” she said, from transmission development to utility meters.
“Our regulatory structures don’t easily provide for optimization of benefits that all of those investments bring and the related savings for customers,” said Clements. “Without that optimization, customers are left in less than optimal positions.”