Strategic electrification forum follow-up
This April, CEE hosted a forum to delve into the current path (and future plans) for strategic electrification in Minnesota. More than 150 people signed up representing state government, gas and electric utility companies, community planners, and energy field colleagues.
Through presentations, panel discussions, and a post-event happy hour, the speakers and attendees wrestled with the challenges, the opportunities, and the many questions around electrification. Even as we embrace electrification as the practical pathway to economy-wide decarbonization, we must be clear-eyed and thoughtful. Electrifying segments of our economy that have historically been served by other fuels will not be easy. The CEE forum provided an opportunity to explore the principles that should guide us in our effort to decarbonize through electrification; at what scale and what speed it will be feasible to electrify, and other considerations we must keep in mind as we move forward.
We invited a wide range of local and national experts to bring their own experiences and knowledge to the discussion. From emerging tech to an evolving grid, and from ongoing natural gas reliance to electric innovations, our speakers shared insights, hope, and a few words of caution about the evolving pathway to electrification. After CEE’s president Chris Duffrin welcomed the crowd, policy lead Mike Bull framed the day’s discussion by highlighting Minnesota’s changing electric supply, ongoing challenges to achieving the state’s Next Generation Energy Act goals, and how electrification fits within Minnesota’s decarbonization strategies.
Building on this frame, our presenters each tackled the complex topic from their own point of view.
Sheryl Carter, Director, Power Sector, NRDC. Among her points, keynote Sheryl Carter provided an overview of the pros and cons of various pathways to electrification, and progress on opportunities so far, with the assertion that “electrification is efficiency (when done right).”
The tech panel moderated by Megan Hoye, Engagement Manager, CEE, covered additional angles:
Ashley Horvat, VP of Public & Private Partnerships, Greenlots, talked about the benefits of open standards and offered examples of strategic electrification in action.
Ben Schoenbauer, Senior Research Engineer, CEE, provided insights from his field assessment of cold-climate air source heat pumps.
Kate Desrochers, Senior Analyst, Vermont Energy Investment Corporation, explored current power grid limitations, asking if the grid is ready for electrification on a grand scale.
And our policy panel discussion was facilitated by Jessica Burdette, State Energy Office Manager, Minnesota Department of Commerce, Division of Energy Resources. Also joined by Sheryl Carter, this panel dug deeper into policy-related needs and challenges in this work:
Richard D. Murphy, Managing Director, American Gas Association, asked the group to consider consumer impacts of residential electrification, including potential cost impacts.
Commissioner Dan Lipschultz, Vice-Chair, Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, spoke about the role of electrification in Minnesota’s decarbonization strategies, especially in transportation.
Sheryl Carter closed her presentation with a number of questions and considerations for the other presenters, and for the energy field as a whole:
- How do we efficiently value and capture the grid services and flexibility provided by electric end uses within and across jurisdictions? How do we ensure that the electric grid integrates these and other distributed energy resources?
- How do we compare across all alternatives for a particular use to arrive at the most efficient choice?
- Who benefits and who should pay? What is the utility role?
- How can we/when do we have to choose between electrification and gas? What are the air quality, GHG, cost and other implications of that choice – both short and long-term?
- What happens to long-lived natural gas and other infrastructure investments, and how can we avoid unnecessary stranded investments?
In line with Sheryl’s list, the day’s presentations foisted a number of important issues to the forefront, while leaving ample room for ongoing conversations about how to address them. With a topic this complex, we’re nowhere close to being done with questions — but hopefully our forum attendees have a more informed perspective as they continue digging for answers.
For more information, please follow the links below for a full video archive of the forum and all presentations, speaker slide decks, presenter bios, and more. Also be sure to add yourself to our “Policy Wire” mailing to stay up to date with CEE’s policy-focused work and future forums.
Strategic Electrification Forum video recording and speaker slide deck
Agenda and speaker bios
CEE’s Policy Framework