Beware Deep Electrification Policies

It is becoming fashionable on the left coasts to banish energy supply for equipment running on fossil fuels. For example consider recent laws prohibiting gas line home hookups. Elizabeth Weise published at USA Today No more fire in the kitchen: Cities are banning natural gas in homes to save the planet. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Fix global warming or cook dinner on a gas stove?

That’s the choice for people in 13 cities and one county in California and one town in Massachusetts that have enacted new zoning codes encouraging or requiring all-electric new construction.

The codes, most of them passed since June, are meant to keep builders from running natural gas lines to new homes and apartments, with an eye toward creating fewer legacy gas hookups as the nation shifts to carbon-neutral energy sources.

The most recent came on Wednesday when the town meeting in Brookline, Massachusetts, approved a rule prohibiting installation of gas lines into major new construction and in gut renovations.

For proponents, it’s a change that must be made to fight climate change. For natural gas companies, it’s a threat to their existence. And for some cooks who love to prepare food with flame, it’s an unthinkable loss.

Another Dangerous Idea that Doesn’t Scale

Once again activists seize upon an idea that doesn’t scale up to the challenge they have imagined. Add this to other misguided climate policies devoted to restricting use of fossil fuels. Apart from dictating consumer’s choices for Earth’s sake, the push could well backfire for other reasons. Jude Clemente writes at Forbes ‘Deep Electrification’ Means More Natural Gas. Excerpts in italics with my bolds. It’s a warning to authorities about outlawing traditional cars, cooking and heating equipment thereby putting all their eggs in the electric energy basket.

For environmental reasons, there’s an ongoing push to “electrify everything,” from cars to port operations to heating.

The idea is that a “deep electrification” will help lower greenhouse gas emissions and combat climate change.

The reality, however, is that more electrification will surge the need for electricity, an obvious fact that seems to be getting forgotten.

The majority of this increase occurs in the transportation sector: electric cars can increase home power usage by 50% or more.

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says that “electrification has the potential to significantly increase overall demand for electricity.”

NREL reports that a “high” electrification scenario would up our power demand by around 40% through 2050.

A high electrification scenario would grow our annual power consumption by 80 terawatt hours per year.

For comparison, that is like adding a Colorado and Massachusetts of new demand each year.

The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) confirms that electrification could boom our power demand by over 50%.

From load shifting to higher peak demand, deep electrification will present major challenges for us.

At around 4,050 terawatt hours, U.S. power demand has been flat over the past decade since The Great Recession.

Ultimately, much higher electricity demand favors all sources of electricity, a “rising tide lifts all boats” sort of thing.

But in particular, it favors gas because gas supplies almost 40% of U.S. electricity generation, up from 20% a decade ago.

Gas is cheap, reliable, flexible, and backups intermittent wind and solar.

In fact, even over the past decade with flat electricity demand, U.S. gas used for electricity has still managed to balloon 60% to 30 Bcf/d.

At 235,000 MW, the U.S. Department of Energy has gas easily adding the most power capacity in the decades ago.

Electrification and more electricity needs show how we demand realistic energy policies.

As the heart of our electric power system, natural gas will surely remain essential.

Indeed, EPRI models that U.S. gas usage increases under “all” electrification scenarios even if gas prices more than double to $6.00 per MMBtu.

Some are forgetting that the clear growth sectors for the U.S. gas industry are a triad, in order: LNG exports, electricity, manufacturing.

The industry obviously knows, for instance, that the residential sector hasn’t seen any gains in gas demand in 50 years.

Flat for a decade, U.S. power demand is set to boom as environmental goals push us to “electrify … [+]DATA SOURCE: NREL; JTC

Footnote:  There is the further unreality of replacing thermal or nuclear power plants with renewables.

The late David MacKay showed that the land areas needed to produce 225 MW of power were very different: 15 acres for a small modular nuclear reactor, 2400 acres for average solar cell arrays, and 60,000 acres for an average wind farm.

Gray area required for wind farms, yellow area for solar farms, to power London UK.

Michael Kelly also estmated the load increase from electifying transportation and heating.

Note that if such a conversion of transport fuel to electricity were to take place, the grid capacity would have to treble from what we have today.

But in fact it is the heating that is the real problem. Today that is provided by gas, with gas flows varying by a factor of eight between highs in winter and lows in summer. If heat were to be electrified along with transport, the grid capacity would have to be expanded by a factor between five and six from today.

See also Kelly’s Climate Clarity

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