NEWS: Utilities' Outlook Unchanged by Politics; Advanced Energy: This Bud’s For You!

Posted by Lexie Briggs on Mar 31, 2017 12:11:07 PM


In the news this week: Utilities themselves speak to changing utility business models that include distributed resources, regardless of federal policy. Plus, more efficient lighting coming to the streets of Chicago and General Motors facilities thanks to AEE member companies, and Anheuser-Busch makes a commitment to advanced energy. We’ll drink to that!

Earlier this week, Utility Dive released its annual State of the Electric Utility Report, and the results are clear: Utilities expect increased penetration of advanced energy technologies, both in terms of generation and advanced grid connection. Each year, Utility Dive surveys hundreds of electric utility professionals across the United States, this year contacting more than 600. Some of the most interesting takeaways:

  • Utilities expect to generate more power from utility-scale solar, natural gas, and distributed generation. They expect hydro, biofuels, and nuclear generation to stay about the same, oil to stay about the same or decrease somewhat, and more than half expect coal to decrease significantly.
  • The election of President Trump has, by and large, not affected the outlook of any single resource other than coal, which is seen more favorably – though these utilities don’t expect to use more of it themselves.
  • Participants rated cybersecurity as most immediately important to their utilities. After that came distributed energy policy, rate design reform, aging grid infrastructure, and reliable integration of renewables and distributed energy resources.
  • Most utility professionals (75%) thought the federal government should take some action on carbon, though there was no clear consensus on what those actions should be. Just over a quarter of the respondents thought the government should “impose an economy-wide price on carbon and other greenhouse gases.”

As Julia Pyper writes in Greentech Medias coverage of the report, despite President Trump’s recent assurance that federal policy would revive the coal industry, “the industry experts who manage power plants don’t see the coal sector making a comeback.”

Meanwhile, proving that beer and advanced energy really do go hand-in-hand, Anheuser Busch this week announced that it would be choosing advanced energy, joining a growing trend of companies doing so. The company expects to be able to purchase all the electricity it uses from renewable sources by 2025. USA Today reports that the company “hopes to be the largest corporate direct purchaser of renewable electricity in the consumer goods sector.”

“Cutting back on fossil fuels is good for the environment and good for business, and we are committed to helping drive positive change,” said Carlos Brito, Anheuser Busch’s CEO. And for those worried the cost of a Bud would go up, Brito says not to worry. “We do not expect our cost base to increase. Renewable electricity is competitive with or cheaper than traditional forms of electricity in many markets.”

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Infographic courtesy of Anheuser Busch.

Anheuser Busch is far from the first beer company to adopt advanced energy. New Belgium Brewing has been using advanced energy such as demand response, onsite generation, and energy efficiency for nearly two decades. (The company’s cofounder and ex-CEO, Kim Jordan, serves on the board of AEE Institute.) In 1999, New Belgium became the first brewery to purchase 100% of its electricity from wind power. This means, whether you’re drinking a Fat Tire or a Bud Light, you’re participating in the advanced energy economy. Bottoms up!

It’s not just corporations getting into advanced energy. This week, the city of Chicago announced the city would be updating their old street lights with new LED smart lights with the help of AEE member Ameresco. The city will replace 270,000 street lights over the next four years with the more energy efficient and smarter lights. “We’ll be cutting our electricity bill for street lighting in half once this is fully deployed,” said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebeckah Scheinfeld.

Chicago is just one of several cities adopting new and smarter street lights. Earlier this year we reported on San Diego’s $30 million investment in new smart street light systems. Los Angeles installed LED street lights between 2007 and 2016, which is saving the city nearly $9 million annually. In 2016, Ed Ebrahimian, director of the Bureau of Street Lighting for the city, extolled the virtues of the new system: “Because we've done our LED conversion, we've reduced the load on our circuits. We've changed the fixtures and installed lower wattage fixtures. All of a sudden the load on our entire circuit is less. It gives us the ability to use the power for other purposes and we have started a new program of installing EV charging stations attached to street lighting poles," he said.

It’s not just cities. AEE member GE’s CEO Jeff Immelt took some time to reaffirm the company’s commitment to advanced energy this week, writing in a blog post, “Our customers, partners and countries are demanding technology that generates power while reducing emissions, improving energy efficiency and reducing cost.” That certainly held true this week, when GE worked with another AEE member, Competitive Power Ventures, to deploy gas turbines in Pennsylvania, and with General Motors to install LED lights in GM facilities.

The 45,000 LED fixtures, provided by GE’s Current, will save GM $2.3 million annually across 32 global locations. As Al Hildreth, global energy manager at General Motors, points out, every bit of savings helps keep costs down for car buyers. “We manage many energy-intensive operations as an automaker, so energy efficiency is critical and integrated into our business plan,” said Hildreth. “Current's LED lighting has helped us reduce power demand by 7 megawatts. GM will continue to pursue a variety of energy-saving technologies to achieve additional cost savings and carbon reduction.”

Did you know that 71% of Fortune 100 companies have made corporate committments to advanced energy and sustainability? Check out our free reports on the committments, and what your state can do to capitalize on them: 

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