A Stakeholders Guide to Electrification is a multi-media guide to help industry stakeholders better understand not only the benefits of electrification, but also the impact it will have on electric distribution systems and the technology, policies, and investments by both the utility and its customers that will be needed.

Electrification means shifting any non-electric source of energy to electricity at the point of consumption. For example, driving a car powered by electricity rather than gasoline. Or heating a home or building with an electric heat pump instead of a furnace that uses natural gas. And when the electricity is generated using a clean, renewable energy source such as solar or wind, electrification becomes a strategy for decarbonization. As you can see, electrification requires consumers to choose an electric technology such as an electric vehicle (EV), but it also requires the utility to ensure that enough electricity is available to meet this new demand, and that it is generated from clean energy sources.

States and cities across the United States are setting their own energy transition goals with many hoping to be carbon free within a decade or two. Getting to 100% clean energy means that everyone must be brought along, even those who can least afford it. While investments in grid infrastructure have traditionally been made with the primary goal of keeping rates low for all customers, equity has become an important factor in making investment decisions. Utilities are now placing increasing import on engaging with the communities that have been historically underserved to better understand their needs and ensure that they will share in the benefits of the clean energy transition.

The project team was guided by a steering committee comprised of industry experts from utilities, regulatory agencies, and research organizations who are working through the challenges of electrification.

The U.S. Department of Energy compiled “A Stakeholder’s Guide to Electrification” to shed light on the benefits of electrification, as well as the impacts on electric distribution systems and the required technology, policies, and investments by utilities and their customers.

Electrification means shifting non-electric energy sources to electricity at the point of consumption like driving a car powered by electricity rather than gas or heating a building with an electric heat pump instead of a natural gas furnace. Electrification through renewable energy resources requires a decarbonization strategy. Electrification requires consumers to choose an electric technology while utilities ensure that enough electricity from clean energy is available to meet this new demand. 

Many states and cities hope to be carbon free within a decade or two. Getting to 100% clean energy means including everyone,¾even those who can least afford it. While grid investments have aimed to keep all customer rates low, equity is an important factor in investment decisions. Utilities now prioritize historically underserved communities to ensure that they will share in the clean energy transition benefits. 

A steering committee representing utilities, regulatory agencies, and research organizations are working through electrification challenges to guide project teams.

  • Maria Bocanegra, Commissioner, Illinois Commerce Commission
  • Christopher J. Budzynski, Director, Utility Policy, Exelon Utilities
  • Allen Dennis, P199 Electrification Program Manager, EPRI
  • Keith Dennis, Vice President, NRECA
  • David Farnsworth, Principal, Regulatory Assistance Project
  • Garrett Fitzgerald, Principal of Electrification, Smart Electric Power Association
  • Diane Huis, SVP, Innovation and Business Development, North Carolina Electric Cooperative
  • Mike Judge, Director, Electric Power Division, MA-DPU
  • Greggory Kresge, Manager of Electrification of Transportation, Hawaiian Electric
  • David Logsdon, Director, Electrification & Strategic Technology, Seattle City Light
  • Michael Luhrs, Vice President, Retail Programs, Duke Energy
  • Mackay Miller, Director, US Strategy, National Grid
  • Richard Oberg, Manager of Product Delivery, SMUD
  • Jason Stanek, Chairman, MD PSC
  • Sharon L. Tomkins, VP, Sustainability, Sempra Energy
  • David Treichler, Director, Strategy and Technology, Oncor
  • Rob Wozny, Senior Product Manager, Electrification, Alliant Energy

Learn about Electrification

Check out these resources for more information about the benefits of electrification and the impact it will have on electric distribution systems and the technology, policies, and investments needed for this transition.

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What is electrification and why are so many people talking about it? This video explains electrification, what it looks like, and how it will impact utilities and consumers.
U.S. Department of Energy

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Topical Briefs

What is Electrification?
Electrification is the process of converting an energy-consuming device, system, or sector from non-electric sources of energy to electricity. And it’s an emerging economy-wide decarbonization strategy that is gaining momentum.
Learn more
Technology that Enables Electrification
Technologies from electric vehicles to electric water heaters, stovetops and even electric airplanes enable the electrification for a cleaner energy future. Learn about promising technology at various stages of market readiness and adoption.
Learn more
Customer Engagement and Electrification
Customer education is extremely important to help overcome the cost and hesitance of adopting new electrification technology.
Learn more
Resource Planning, Electrification, and Equity
Preparing the grid for electrification requires utilities to know about the people, businesses, and industries that they serve better than ever before.
Learn more
Resiliency, Risk, and Electrification
Resiliency is the ability to restore power after an unexpected disruption. As more energy-consuming devices are electrified, the impact of power outages increases.
Learn more

 

Listen to a Grid Talk Podcast

“It is a big target and a goal but it’s one that we’re really excited about taking on.” Alice Jackson, President, Xcel Energy Colorado

“The two big issues that we need to think about are resiliency, and cyber risk and physical security risk.” Gil Quiniones, President and CEO, NYPA

“The utilities are going to be critical as we move into this new era of the energy company of the future.” Calvin Butler Jr., CEO Exelon Utilities

 

Watch Presentations, Interviews, and Discussions

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District (SMUD) developed a resource priorities map to identify underserved areas or those in distress from lack of community engagement, adequate income, affordable housing, employment opportunities, and transportation. During these two 30-minute interactive webinars, SMUD shares its methodology for on-site selection criteria and datasets to build out its mapping tool. SMUD also discusses how this information helps align investments with both sustainability and equity, and how that contributes to increased community engagement and partnerships.  

Mapping Sustainable Communities for Equitable Electrification

January 2022

When Jose Bodipo-Memba and his team began developing their Sustainable Communities Resource Priorities map, using data on economic conditions, air quality and more, they knew they were going to make powerful discoveries. Learn how they created the tool, and how they’re using it to help distribute electrification technologies and programs where they’re most needed.

 

Paul Lau: Electrification Helps SMUD Better Serve the Community

May 2021

SMUD CEO Paul Lau believes electrification is key to reducing carbon and improving air quality for customers and communities. He shares how electrifying buildings and transportation can help utilities balance the grid, and describes the roles of different stakeholders in facilitating electrification and providing customer choice.


Jon Walker: Utilities Are Key To Electrify Ride Hailing

April 2021

Jon Walker (Lyft) and Garrett Fitzgerald (SEPA) have history collaborating on ride hailing electrification. Hear them discuss Lyft’s commitments, the essential role of utility partners, and how working together benefits all stakeholders, including customers and drivers.


Calvin Butler: Equitable Electrification Strengthens ALL Communities

April 2021

Calvin Butler is building diversity, equity and inclusion into the culture at Exelon Utilities. Hear how Exelon is doubling down on these efforts within their electrification programs, and how it will benefit the communities they serve.

 

Listen to Industry Discussions

The U.S. Department of Energy Office of Electricity hosted a series of topical round table discussions that further explored some of the many aspects of electrification including equity. The purpose of the virtual discussions was to provide a platform for industry participants to share their insights and experience and exchange ideas with other participants.

Discussion Leaders: Greggory Kresge (HECO), Rob Wozny (Alliant Energy), and Mackay Miller (National Grid) 

What are some of the most promising electrification technologies in each sector? This discussion focuses on the opportunities and challenges associated with non-road technologies such as heat pumps, induction cooking, electric forklifts, and electric water pumping, among others. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Although service territories differ across the country, they each have numerous opportunities to use electrification technologies to meet both customer and grid needs.  
  2. Consumer education and workforce development (i.e., hiring more HVAC workers and shifting their gas-centric mindset) can help surpass common barriers. 
  3. When considering new electrification initiatives, reach out to other utilities that have successfully implemented the electric technology under consideration. The utility with an existing program may provide valuable information about the manufacturer(s) and installer(s) they employed. 

Resources

Discussion Leaders: David Logsdon (Seattle City Lights), Diane Huis (NCEMC), and Kristen Munsch (National Grid) 

Electrification happens at the grid edge where utility service ends, and customer equipment starts. Hear from utilities on how they engage and educate customers through programs that encourage adoption of electrification technologies. 

Key takeaways  

  1. Partnerships with community-based organizations is key to successfully engaging with customers.  Organizations like the Beneficial Electrification League, the Electric Power Research Institution (EPRI) electrification program, technology vendors, and local organizations are potential partners and resources. 
  2. Do not underestimate public indifference. Many customers are simply motivated by whether their appliance works and the amount on their bill.
  3. Pace expectations and educate customers about what they can do. If asking customers for their participation, ensure all web tools and applications are working properly. If issues arise, resolve them quickly. 
  4. Communicate the benefits of electrification beyond the environment to agricultural and industrial customers. Customers may need information on how electrification can make their business more efficient and financial savings that may be realized.  
  5. Move a customer along a ladder of engagement. Meet them where they are by addressing their problem or question, build trust, and identify discrete actions they can take and programs they can join. Give customers the whole picture by sharing with them how they are contributing to their own savings and how they’re benefiting the environment.  

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Richard Oberg (SMUD), Keith Dennis (NRECA), Michael Judge (MA-DPU), and Christopher Budzynski (Exelon) 

Flexible energy consumption means consumers can use electricity when rates are lowest, and utilities can shift electric loads to optimize existing distribution assets and generation resources. Learn more about the economic benefits of electrification in this virtual discussion. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Utilities and regulators already use benefits beyond decarbonization, like decreased costs and the grid service capability, to value electrification. 
  2. Electrification can enable better grid management. For example, EVs and other electric technologies can be grid resources. An EV has operational flexibility with dual functionality and can dynamically shape, shift, and discharge energy at optimal times. 
  3. Electrification benefits vary significantly by region and a customer’s unique circumstances. Overall, stakeholders may agree on the value of electrification, but utilities and regulators struggle to find common methodologies to quantify the benefits for all stakeholders.  
  4. Widespread electrification will pressure electric rates downward as the fixed costs associated with the infrastructure are spread over more kilowatt hours.  
  5. Traditional tools to evaluate costs and benefits are may not accurately reflect the value of electrification. Some benefit cost models examine each program in isolation, but the entire program portfolio should be evaluated. In addition, the value of an electrification program (e.g., meeting policy goals or upholding equity) might vary among different people, which is the fundamental challenge for quantifying value. 

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Karen Olesky (NV PUC), David Logsdon (Seattle City Light), and Commissioner Linton (MD PSC) 

Ensuring that customers share equitably in the benefits and the costs of electrification is one of the challenges. This discussion includes perspectives from regulators, utilities, and communities and sample tools and programs to develop and implement equitable approaches to electrification. 

Key takeaways  

  1. Drill down into your customer base and understand their challenges and decision-making. If the goal is to design a program that effectively supports a specific community, investigate how that community uses electricity,  interacts with the utility, and its specific needs. 
  2. Achieve true equity through community and utility relationships that are more than simply transactional; the utility needs to establish trust through regular communication to ensure programs continue to meet customer needs. 
  3. While it may not be possible to achieve 100% equity, set a goal and a mechanism to track goal progress. 
  4. Develop programs all customers can access. Even successful programs are inaccessible to some communities. Customers within a service territory or state will each have unique circumstances that affect their ability to participate in electrification initiatives. 
  5. No one is perfect. Learn and course correct as you go. 
  6. There isn’t one “right way” to approach equity because each community is unique. Individualize electrification projects and include community members as stakeholders throughout the process. A lack of communication when a utility installs electrification infrastructure, for example, may result in the perception that it is for gentrification—even if the intention is the opposite. 

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Sharon Tomkins (Sempra), Mary Weiner (Holy Cross Energy), and Commissioner Bocanegra (Illinois Commerce Commission) 

Does electrification make communities more resilient? Or does it increase our vulnerability to natural disasters and other threats to the electric grid? Participants discuss the benefits and risks to resiliency, and mitigation strategies utilities are developing. 

Key takeaways  

  1. Water scarcity, even if due partly to electrification, makes communities extremely vulnerable to power outages. Water scarcity impacts power plant generation. Increased water use from electrification is also an issue, as is increasing wildfires and droughts. State commissions benefit from having conversations about this major issue.  
  2. New approaches to regulatory frameworks can examine cross-sector approaches, like electric, water, and gas, to examine overall resiliency impacts.  
  3. Coordination between utility functional areas is critical to balance electrification and resiliency (i.e., power supply managers, planners, and customer programs/research). 
  4. To ensure state decarbonization goals are met, utilities should think about their pathway to carbon-free operations holistically and increase coordination with state agencies. 
  5. Electrification makes homes climate resilient and the grid more resilient when paired with managed charging, V2G capabilities, microgrids, and building enhancements like weatherization. 

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Keith Dennis (NRECA), David Treichler (Oncor), and Christina Alston (Georgia Transmission Corporation) 

Ensuring the grid can accommodate the increasing demand associated with electrification may require investments to transmission and distribution systems. This discussion focuses on where those investments are, how much is needed, and strategies to reduce investment requirements. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Managing loads and flexible loads will be the key to meet new electrification demand without overbuilding infrastructure.        
  2. Strong relationships with large commercial and industrial customers and knowledge of their business cycles and purchasing patterns will help utilities identify emerging electrification opportunities in their service territories.  
  3. Many customers—even large ones—may bring on new loads with electrification but do not understand the infrastructure investments needed to serve their loads.. Educate stakeholders on the utility process to deliver capacity where and when needed.  
  4. Resiliency is specific to communities based on geography, climate, housing stock, and rural or urban characteristics. Planning should be coordinated across sectors and done with community leadership.  
  5. Affordability matters. Overbuilding is a risk that utilities mitigate through flexible loads, managed charging programs, rate design, weatherization and energy efficiency programs.   
  6. State and federal funding may contribute to infrastructure investments that support increased electrification and resilience—especially those that directly benefit disadvantaged communities. This funding may help to offset costs and keep rates affordable.  
  7. Consider electrification impacts on water scarcity during extreme weather events like wildfires or drought, which can make communities more vulnerable to the ability to withstand outages.   

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Sharon Tompkins (Sempra) and Mackay Miller (National Grid) 

This discussion explored how gas utilities are preparing for electrification, including the steps they are taking to ensure the costs of gas load defection are distributed equitably, and how exiting gas assets can be utilized to support resiliency and clean fuel adoption. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Natural gas utilities will be important to net-zero goals.  
  2. The existing natural gas piping infrastructure may be used to support renewable natural gas and/or hydrogen gas blends. 
  3. Electrification and energy system planning must consider customer demographics and income level, building stock, and electric infrastructure. This infrastructure includes the tightness of the buildings for electrification upgrades plus the age of the natural gas piping infrastructure. 
  4. In addition to the integrated planning paradigm shift, utilities and customers need to partner to deploy solutions that match city goals and needs. 
  5. Customers want a lower-carbon system, but they also want energy that is available and affordable. The real challenge is delivering on that in a net-zero way.  We need to think about the energy system and move towards net-zero goals holistically. 
  6. If we don’t invest in the energy efficiency of building stock, we will need to overinvest somewhere else. 

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Angela Long (Portland General Electric) and Nick Martin (Xcel Energy)  

Partnerships with community-based organizations are key to building trust with customers. What is the difference between community engagement and community outreach? This discussion focuses on the successes and challenges of utilities building trust and thoughtfully engaging community-based organizations to inform utility planning, operations, and customer programs.  

 Key takeaways 

  1. Regulators and partners see distribution systems planning as where climate goals, community, and utility evolution come together. Building trust with customers and community-based organizations is a continuous, long-term effort that needs to be part of the utility’s internal and external culture.  
  2. Outreach and engagement are not the same thing. Utilities are shifting their outreach efforts from informing customers and communities to engaging customers, which starts with listening and responding to community needs.  
  3. Utilities must meet communities where they are—both geographically and economically. This may mean providing educational, financial, and technical support for programs and policies designed to transition to clean energy.  
  4. Utilities must take a new approach to community meetings, which includes inviting community-based organizational leaders to plan and lead discussions and creating space for people to provide feedback to the utility.  
  5. Interveners are traditionally not paid to participate in public utility commission hearings, but as experts in their community needs, community leaders should be compensated.  

Resources

Discussion Leader: Kristin Munsch (ComEd) 

Investor-owned utilities (IOUs) experience unique requirements and standards to serve electric customers. How must IOUs balance traditional legal requirements for service with addressing energy equity? How do they and other utilities interpret energy equity and move past these challenges to implement equity strategies and actions? This discussion focuses IOU experiences and includes energy equity terminology. 

 Key takeaways 

  1. Equity is now one piece of the three-legged stool of regulations to provide safe, affordable, and reliable service.    
  2. Equity doesn't supersede any traditional utility decision factor—if it comes down to two investment opportunities that similarly promote safety, affordability, and reliability, equity can now be considered a deciding factor.  
  3. IOUs are not just the grid operators, but must show up to support community groups on non-energy issues. 
  4. Utilities need to learn how past practices and investments caused disproportionate burdens on communities. They also need to better understand who can access their programs to provide future access to economically disadvantaged communities and low-income customers.  
  5. Often regulatory language around equity is not clear – is it about creating opportunities for customers and communities, or is it about the end results? We do not yet have clear metrics to measure our progress towards equity.  
  6. As Commissions and regulators translate legislative calls for equity to rulemakings, IOUs grapple with what some perceive as ambiguous language. IOUs need more prescriptive guidance from Commissions on defining equity and how they want utilities to address it.  
  7. Utilities have engineering and regulatory constraints that often restrict them from offering what their stakeholders would like.   
  8. Utility data may not always be trusted. Building trust requires a long-term commitment to community engagement and transparency in the data to share.  
  9. Stakeholder relationships can be challenging, but there is room for a new kind of relationship.    
  10. Stop speaking “utility speak.” The utility should explain opportunities and challenges in a way that resonate with community members and invites stakeholders to participate in decisions by sharing meaningful input. Make listening a priority at community meetings.  
  11. Messaging must convey you are there to help your communities. Utilities provide essential services linked to other challenges, such as food insecurity and economic development. Rely on the expertise of community-based organizations for messaging and reaching people.

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Amy Atchley and Keree Brannen (Austin Energy) 

What does it mean to apply an equity lens to new customer programs to close the disparity gap? How are utilities like Austin Energy developing programs that best serve the community and address the most vulnerable communities first? This discussion focuses on lessons learned from program design and implementation that is community driven and customer focused including Austin Energy’s innovative e-mobility program, “EV’s for Everyone.” 

 Key takeaways 

  1. Multiple utilities commented on the importance of beta programs. Be willing to take risks, make course corrections, and learn as you go. You are going to stumble.  
  2. Panelists and attendees discussed best-practices for leveraging U.S. Census data on intersectional demographics (race, income, ability, housing security) to inform energy equity decisions. Community-based organizations and local governments (e.g., health departments) are often already working with this information. Utilities can explore data-sharing to co-address issues within the service territory.  
  3. Post pandemic communities expect institutions to communicate effectively and competently (e.g., language translation). If you solve for the most vulnerable, you’re solving for everybody. Identify blind spots by determining who’s not at the table.
  4. Energy equity work requires a long-term commitment from the utility with budgetary and executive support and from the community partners.    

Resources

Discussion Leader: Jeff Feinberg (Snohomish County PUD) 

Increasing access to clean energy programs for low- and moderate-income (LMI) customers comes with its own set of challenges, such as identifying disadvantaged communities. Traditional metrics, including adoption and uptake from marketing campaigns, are important metrics, but others are needed to identify important gaps. In addition, access to clean energy technology often requires federal and state funds to avoid cross subsidization. This discussion focuses on lessons learned when designing and accessing funding for LMI programs. 

Key takeaways 

  1. The low-income customer segment is heterogeneous, which means equity strategies look different for the varied communities facing income challenges. For example, you may need different strategies to reach LMI customers in rural vs. urban areas. 
  2. Utilities must act faster and be nimbler to respond to funding opportunities. The pandemic forced Snohomish County PUD to adapt quickly.  Be proactive in finding partners to meet funding requirements and go in with an open mind to engage with people in different roles and levels as required by the funding program and partner.    
  3. Evolve program offerings (and your thinking) to incorporate multiple outcomes and metrics. Ensure all programs aligned with and support long-term strategic goals. This maximizes your funding to accomplish multiple goals and outcomes. Think of it as providing maximum value for dollars invested.   
  4. Are you stretching the value? Think less about spending down a budget and more about providing more kinds of value with the budget.  

Resources

Discussion Leaders: Paul Breakman, Vice President, Cooperative Business Solutions (NRECA) and Marshall Cherry, President and CEO (Roanoke Electric Cooperative) 

NRECA was founded to bring equitable electricity to rural America. Today, some 6.3 million households in electric co-op service areas lack high-speed internet access. Learn how NRECA and Roanoke Electric Cooperative bridge the equity gap between urban and rural populations through broadband to underserved households. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Access to high-speed, reliable, affordable connection is essential to American prosperity and to the economic survival of rural communities.   
  2. Low housing density in rural areas create a significant gap in access to broadband between urban and rural areas.   
  3. Electric cooperatives serve 92% of the “persistent poverty communities.” More than 6 million electric cooperative households are without robust, resilient high-speed internet.  
  4. In impoverished communities, many times going door-to-door is the best way to communicate with individual customers.  
  5. Rural towns will not survive if cooperatives like Roanoke Electric Cooperative are not successful in getting broadband to these communities.  
  6. Opportunities exist for utilities in urban areas to partner with carriers to offer access to high-speed internet to lower-income customers.  

Resources

Discussion Leader: Sheri Givens (National Grid) 

Energy companies are reflecting on what it means to incorporate energy equity and environmental justice. The industry’s transition into a carbon-free future leaves many unanswered questions about how to avoid leaving any one person or community behind. This discussion focuses on National Grid’s reflections on taking inventory to encourage equity. 

Key takeaways 

  1. Massachusetts and New York, like some other states, passed legislation that includes the requirement to address energy equity. This legislation is one of the drivers of utility equity initiatives. Some states may include specific program and investment targets, metrics, and definitions for disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations.  
  2. The principle of energy equity must be incorporated across the entire organization. A centralized approach facilitates internal accountability and enables the utility to complete a comprehensive inventory and gap analysis. 
  3. State policy and regulatory environments drive equity initiatives at utilities and may include specific program and investment targets, metrics, and definitions for disadvantaged communities and vulnerable populations. 
  4. Getting an external and/or independent review of utility programs and practices is an important measure of where you are and how well you are progressing. 
  5. Like many utilities, the National Grid has identified areas of inequality including energy-related environmental burdens and lack of access to programs and employment opportunities. 
  6. The National Grid considers 5 pillars of equity: 1) customers, 2) communities, 3) society, 4) workforce, 5) supply chain. After reviewing their companywide inventory of equity actions thus far, leaders allocated new resources and a staff team to support these pillars in practice. 
  7. Establishing partnerships in addressing equity is an important first step. National Grid is conducting a series of “Equity in Energy” workshops to bring together people from a variety of stakeholder groups, including state and local government offices and community advocates.

Resources