Electrification offers utilities a path to support their communities, but there’s a catch

Electrification offers utilities a path to support their communities, but there’s a catch
Jun 27, 2022

When U.S. Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced the creation of the new Joint Office of Energy and Transportation in late 2021, supporting federal funding deployment to build out a national network of electric vehicle (EV) chargers wasn’t their only stated goal.

They said the office would focus on much-needed technical assistance, including support for career training and certification programs to grow a clean transportation workforce across the country.

With efforts such as these at the federal level moving the needle on electrification as a means to achieve both climate and community development goals, there is an opportunity for regional players such as electric utilities to build on the momentum. However, developing and implementing electrification programs with optimal benefits across goals that span from decarbonization to energy equity requires careful planning.

Utilities across the country share many of the same interests as the federal government, which are the interests of the communities they serve: workforce development, cleaner air, energy that is affordable, reliable, and carbon free.

Increasingly, utility executives are looking to electrification of transportation and buildings as a pathway to deliver those benefits to their customers and communities.

In a new report Utility executive survey: How leaders are tackling decarbonization, resilience, and equity, ICF reveals in a survey of nearly 200 utility leaders that 83% consider electrification a high or moderate priority and 96% of those utilities have or soon will have an electrification strategy. And within the next five years, many expect to pursue their electrification goals by increasing investments in specific areas that include:

  • EV charging (62%)
  • Grid modernization (62%)
  • Training electricians (54%)
  • Building electrification (54%)

What’s the catch?

Delivering the benefits of electrification to communities does not come without risks. In fact, 47% of surveyed utility leaders view electrification as risky due to grid reliability challenges that could arise as more EVs hit the road and building heating systems are converted from gas to electric. The fact that 62% of respondents expect increasing investments in grid modernization demonstrates that utilities understand, for all the potential benefits of electrification, there are challenges they need to solve.

Sacrificing reliability isn’t an option for utilities, so they’ll need to build electrification strategies that plan actions now to prepare the grid so that the benefits of electrification come without a reliability risk.

For more data on how utility leaders are pursuing electrification and insights into how to balance the risks and opportunities utility leaders say matter most, download the report now.

"Utility executive survey: How leaders are tackling decarbonization, resilience and equity" provides original research from ICF shining a light on the rapidly evolving utility industry with insights from leaders across four key areas: decarbonization, resilience, electrification, and energy equity and affordability.

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Meet the author
  1. Stacy Noblet, Vice President, Transportation Electrification + ICF Climate Center

    Stacy is a transportation electrification expert supporting government and commercial clients with over 15 years’ experience. View bio