November/December 2021 | Vol. 26 No. 6
Recently someone made me aware of a quote from Bill Gates, “We always overestimate the change that will occur in the next two years and underestimate the change that will occur in the next 10.” While I might haggle over the timeframes, I do agree with the general idea. When I started at NEMA in 2014, I was mindful of the changes already underway in the electroindustry, and I knew NEMA had a challenge to meet if we were going to deliver on our contract with Members. NEMA staff did step up and, with strong Member support, we are well-positioned for what is shaping up to be a decade of change ready-made for our industry.
As I depart, some thoughts to underline that last point. Buildings, both residential and commercial, use almost a third of the energy consumed in the United States. Granted, homes and buildings do not exist to be efficient, but neither do their functions require them to be inefficient. And rather than some deus ex machina solution, we have seen consistent evolutionary efficiency improvement delivered by astonishing technological innovation in many cases led by NEMA Member companies. In just my time at NEMA, LEDs have gone from one percent of lamp shipments to more than 75 percent, according to NEMA Business Information Services. Beyond lighting, I see vast opportunities for NEMA Members in broader electrification of building systems.
On my first day at NEMA in 2014, the electricity generation mix in the United States was 39 percent coal, 28 percent natural gas, and 13 percent renewables. Today, coal use has more than halved, natural gas has increased to 40 percent, and renewables have increased to 20 percent. NEMA Members’ innovative technologies will herald further change such as will be needed to accommodate variable renewable energy generation capable of meeting base-load reliable criteria. As the grid continues its transformation, a more decarbonized system presents a real opportunity for our industry.
Finally, I want to mention the transportation sector. NEMA launched its Transportation Division in 2018, acknowledging that electric and connected transportation systems are the future of mobility. Transportation accounts for 35 percent of U.S. energy consumption, nearly all derived from petroleum. But that’s changing. On my first day at NEMA, electric vehicles (EVs) accounted for less than 0.5 percent of new car sales. Today, 55 different EV models account for five percent of new car sales, doubling in just a year. While still a small percentage of overall sales, automakers are making significant investments in EV production that signal that the future of transportation is electric. This EV adoption will require NEMA Members’ charging equipment and a grid capable of supplying electricity to meet these new loads without compromising safety or electricity reliability.
This innovation and change would not be possible without the hard work of NEMA Members and staff. I am proud of all that NEMA has accomplished over my time on this team. The organization is healthy and relevant as it passes into the very capable hands of NEMA President and CEO Debra Phillips. I wish you all continued success as you close in on NEMA at 100. ei
Kevin J. Cosgriff
Outgoing NEMA President and CEO