May 2022 / Vol. 27 No. 5
For a long time, our industry has rightfully focused on energy efficiency, the first vector and the unsung hero of decarbonization. It’s also a core enabler for cost savings and, increasingly, energy independence.
But there’s so much more our industry will deliver in the new energy landscape: resilience, safety, sustainability. In a time of high volatility in energy markets, these features are more relevant than ever. For that reason, I welcome the theme of this month’s issue: Beyond Efficiency.
There are two ways we as an industry can go beyond efficiency. The first is to go beyond traditional notions of supply and demand. The second is to go beyond the device level by looking at how devices integrate into systems.
When it comes to supply and demand, energy efficiency remains key. But the next big transformation in energy isn’t simply optimizing one side or the other. It’s about optimizing where supply and demand meet.
The electric vehicle is a great example of this new nexus. Traditionally, a vehicle is a point of energy consumption. But regulations and codes are in the works across the country that would allow vehicle batteries to supply energy to the grid. Grid-to-vehicle electricity was already a big challenge — how will we accommodate all that new electricity demand? Vehicle-to-grid electricity makes it even more complex by creating two-way energy flows.
Yet solving that complexity is worth it. Vehicle-to-grid will benefit consumers, who will use their vehicles to supply reliable backup power to their homes. It’s also an opportunity for utilities to get a resilient standby energy supply for managing peak demand.
But for our industry, it’s a test. And it’s not just EVs. It’s rooftop solar, batteries, microgrids, and the countless smart devices that interact within this new ecosystem. Soon, there won’t be two neat categories, energy producers and consumers. There will be one group: prosumers. And this prosumer revolution won’t just happen; it’ll be built intentionally through new systems that our industry brings to market.
And that takes us to the second way to go beyond efficiency. Energy-efficient devices aren’t enough; we need to integrate them into energy-efficient systems. That’s how we’ll successfully manage the complexities of this new two-way energy flow. One, in particular, a distributed energy resource (DER) management system, will be essential for controlling an ever-expanding set of DERs, such as on-site solar, wind, and storage.
These systems need to be digital. It’s the only way to orchestrate the hundreds of millions of new endpoints within one symphonic flow of energy. Digital systems anticipate and locate faults. They harness AI to identify patterns in energy use and find invisible energy waste. They alone can keep everything humming the same tune, reliably and sustainably.
The boundaries in the new energy landscape are increasingly blurry. Supply and demand switch sides. Producers become consumers. And endpoints merge into a single system. Our industry will make these transformations possible by going beyond efficiency, thereby unlocking a reliable, sustainable, and resilient electric future for our country.
The boundaries in the new energy landscape are increasingly blurry. Supply and demand switch sides. Producers become consumers. And endpoints merge into a single system. Our industry will make these transformations possible by going beyond efficiency, thereby unlocking a reliable, sustainable, and resilient electric future for our country. ei
Annette Kay Clayton
Chair, NEMA Board of Governors