The Inflation Reduction Action & the Electrification of Society
The energy we deserve and how we may finally get it.
With the Senate’s passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, the U.S. has taken a large step forward in the massive transformation of the fossil fuel economy into a fully electrified one — one run on wind, solar, and other renewable energy. We have written previously about what the world might look like if we got the energy grid right, about how a decentralized system could enable a resilient and cost-competitive energy system, and even about what’s keeping us from driving electric vehicles. But how do all these problems intersect?
And what technologies will actually help us electrify everything?
Any practical discussion about the energy transition tends to quickly get bogged down by political and financial minutiae, as well as–if we’re being honest–a fair amount of blaming and despair at climate change denial. This devolves into either throwing our hands up and lamenting, or proposing miniscule solutions that don’t do enough to address the scale of the problem at hand. It’s clear that the solution is to electrify all sectors of society, but we can’t view each of these sectors in isolation.
To see how the Inflation Reduction Act enables universal electrification, let’s first understand some terminology. What happens when electricity demand exceeds current power supply, like in the event of extreme weather? Different players in the electric grid may participate in demand response via load balancing and peak shaving.
- Load balancing is when power stations store excess supply for later use. (supply > demand)
- Peak shaving is when consumers source electricity from storage instead of the grid. (demand > supply)
- DERs (distributed energy resources) provide a steady supply of voltage (power quality) to distribution systems by modulating their production and consumption of power.
Additionally, distributed networks can be built efficiently with DERs to enable the infrastructure required for ubiquitous electrification.
Individual DERs can help distribution feeders reduce energy losses and avoid voltage excursions (abnormal voltage deviations). And thus a system of DERs utilizing existing smart grid technology can greatly improve grid reliability.
Further, DERs and interconnected loads can form independent microgrids, which according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), act as “a single controllable entity with respect to the grid.” Deploying microgrids not only improves reliability and resilience in light of grid disturbances, but is also far less capital-intensive compared to delivering energy by centralized electricity generation. Research from Energy Policy, an international peer-reviewed journal focused on the implications of energy supply, suggests that promoting decentralized distributed storage and generation options like microgrids may quicken the rate of electrification at the lowest cost, especially in rural electrification in South Asia and other developing regions.
Beyond microgrids, decentralized innovations like smart meter technology and virtual power plants already exist. Smart meters can help avoid lengthy power outages through data collection and prediction, yet this solution still lacks the infrastructure scale to prevent failures. For example, smart meters played a part in the Texas blackouts of 2021.
While the technology needed for the electrification of society already exists, such solutions have yet to be leveraged to their fullest potential.
Harnessing the potential of decentralization, we must electrify all sectors, from transportation to food to construction. How can we accomplish this most efficiently and effectively? By integrating, scaling, and speeding up existing solutions, we can reach mass electrification.
ElectricFish is building a network of DER devices that deliver XFC (extreme fast charging) to vehicles, leveraging technologies like smart metering to predict and prepare for failures ahead of time, and focusing on deployments in disadvantaged communities. We are offering an equitable and resilient future for all communities.
Join us in contributing towards bringing uninterrupted access to 100% renewable electricity for all. Together we can build the energy we deserve.
This is the fourth post in a recurring series of ElectricFish insights around the technical aspects of Electric Vehicles, their charging, and interaction with the electricity grid. Follow us to stay in the loop!