A Coordinated Approach to Rural Electrification
Presented by: Bonnie Pratt (Packetized Energy)
Supported by: Bill Powell (Washington Electric Coop) and Graham Turk (Green Mountain Power)
Summary: It is time for a unified approach to electrification in Vermont. Given Vermont’s low-carbon electricity portfolio, electrification is likely to be the most cost-effective way to meet the state’s goal of reducing GHG emissions by 50% from 1990 levels by 2028. A unified rural electrification plan would proactively enable electrification at this level, while also reducing the risk of uncontrolled load growth, which could dramatically increase grid infrastructure costs. A coordinated electrification program would alleviate the energy burden on rural Vermonters in three ways: (1) by reducing fuel costs by supporting EV and heat pump adoption; (2) by creating a pool of funds to keep “cost causation” expenses from falling on late adopters of smart technology; and (3) minimizing the impact of electrification on infrastructure costs through flexible load technology. Widespread rural electrification will also increase utility revenue by growing electric energy consumption in Vermont, creating rate-reducing benefits for all customers. With well-designed flexible load technology we can stop the game of whack-a-mole that is making peaks increasingly difficult to predict and curtail peak-related expenses across all utilities. This is our moment to craft an electrification plan that will bring federal money into rural areas of the state instead of flowing through existing pathways to urban centers. Vermont has a reputation for collaboration and renewable energy. By proving that this can work in Vermont, this state can serve as a model for the rest of the country as we all grapple with the challenges and opportunities of a larger and more weather-dependent electric grid.