Our reliance on power to meet our daily needs continues to grow and the methods we use to get that power are evolving. We have shifted from burning wood and coal to increased reliance on natural gas and green sources like solar, wind, hydro, and nuclear. We are now starting to see yet another change as communities throughout the nation start to shift away from natural gas and focus instead on meeting energy needs through electric sources.
Once we shift our reliance to a focus on electric, advocates argue, we can have greater control over which fuel provides energy. Gone are the days of relying solely on coal. Now, these advocates continue, a mix of various green sources can provide electricity to meet the nation’s power needs.
Will the nation shift from natural gas to electric?
If not a complete switch, a move to an increased reliance on electricity over natural gas seems likely. Even now, there are signs that communities are making this change. Tech advances are making electricity more present in our homes then ever before. In addition to smart thermostats, refrigerators, and lighting systems, electric heating units now do a better job keeping homes and could surpass the efficiency of natural gas units. Advances in kitchen appliances like induction heating for stovetops that can directly heat the pan and offer better temperature control compared to natural gas stovetops are also promising for cooking enthusiasts and electric vehicles are becoming the norm as more drivers purchase fully electric or hybrid vehicles.
Availability of appliances and vehicles that run on electricity is one part of this evolution. Another is the hurdle that comes with the cost of making the change. President Joseph Biden’s administration has made moves to support those who choose to shift to electric, including billions towards decarbonization efforts within the Build Back Better plan. The federal government also offers tax incentives to help encourage the shift. Tax incentives are available for renewable energy upgrades like solar panels and lawmakers are considering new proposals to further supplement the expenses associated with converting a home from natural gas to electric.
Is the nation ready to shift towards electricity?
Although those excited about tech advances may jump at the chance to implement these new devices another important question remains: can our system handle it? The current system basically pulls from two sources: the electric grid and natural gas lines. Shifting away from natural gas lines towards electric could double the demand on the current transmission grid.
There is good reason for these concerns. Just last year, California officials asked electric vehicle owners to refrain from charging their cars during peak times. The move seems to support the concern that the current grid cannot handle the increased demand.
Another issue: the need to supplement energy needs at night and other times when renewable sources are not as plentiful. Some experts note that expanding the grid can result in access to renewable energy sources from a winder range and may be the answer to this problem.
What will the future hold?
An increased pull from electric utilities is likely regardless of a full shift or not. As such, electric utilities are wise to adjust to meet the demand for power from green sources. Ultimately, the grid will need to be updated to improve resiliency. These updates will serve as the foundation upon which we can continue to evolve to meet our nation’s growing energy needs.