On Monday, President Obama formally unveiled the Clean Power Plan — a massive 15-year project designed to make the US less dependent on non-renewable forms of energy, like coal and oil.
As part of the plan, each state is expected to hit specific energy consumption goals by 2030. This means they will have to rely less on electric power plants and more on the resources continually available to us: wind, solar, and water.
The plan look toward the long term, but Alex Laskey, president of energy software company Opower, says the changes to industry and lifestyle will be stark.
In an interview with Tech Insider, Laskey described several ways utilities companies will see major shifts in how they operate — and in turn, how we consume energy.
1. Electric cars
Laskey’s main prediction is that, by forcing utilities companies to get creative in how they reduce their emissions, they will start offering new services to make up the difference in revenue.
One of the ways they could do this is by installing electric car charging stations, which the Obama administration discusses in its current plan and has also addressed in prior proposals as a way to combat carbon dioxide emissions more broadly.
“Utilities are going to be in the business of helping accelerate the adoption of electric vehicles” through improvements in charging infrastructure, Laskey says.
He also emphasises the need for appropriate tariffs. Americans can’t all come home and charge their cars at the same time, he says. That would defeat the purpose. Instead, utilities companies would be smart to offer financial incentives for off-peak charging.
“Making sure utilities are offering customers sensible rates and at the same time helping support the investment in charging infrastructure is critical,” he says, “if we’re going to see wide-scale deployment of electric vehicles.”
2. Solar power
The Clean Power Plan is prioritising solar and wind energy in its incentivization programs, especially in low-income areas.
A recent Gallup poll showed 79% of Americans believe the country should increase its focus on harnessing the power of the sun. This means there’s a huge untapped market for people interested in solar energy, but who can’t get it because utilities don’t offer that service at present.
“Whether you like or dislike ConEd, you trust them to provide electricity to your home,” Laskey says. “It would make sense that you’d trust them with solar.”
3. Energy efficiency
Perhaps the most relevant changes for consumers in the short term are proposed changes to energy efficiency, Laskey says. The new plan recognises the sweeping impact small steps can have on a family’s budget and total emission — from requiring certain building codes that minimise heat loss to giving people data on the best time to run their air-conditioning units and keep their lights off.
After all, fewer people on the grid means a reduced stress on resources.
“There are all kinds of things like this that will have a meaningful impact to your load curve and to the cost of your utility, and therefore to you,” Laskey says. The best part, he says, is that this “will have no impact on your quality of life.”
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