Saul Griffith is an engineer, entrepreneur, inventor, sought-after speaker and popular author. He is a world-class thought leader with a simple message: For a clean energy future, we must electrify everything.
And he does mean everything. Griffith spells this out in his recent book, “Electrify: An Optimist’s Playbook For Our Clean Energy Future.” We recommend it. It is chock-full of compelling data—and some stunning observations—that support his case.
The ultimate impact of electrifying everything, coupled with “decarbonizing” the world’s power sources, will be to fight climate change. We must produce zero-emission electricity with solar, wind, hydroelectric generation and, wherever possible, nuclear sources. We can allow for sourcing a relatively minor percentage of our power requirements from biofuel. But there will never be enough biomaterials on Earth to be sustainable.
Griffith never suggests searching the internet for “electrical contractors near me” to begin an effort to totally electrify our homes or workplaces. For our way of thinking, that is a glaring omission. In a book crammed with great perspectives and foresight, he never considers the role ECs could undeniably play in promoting and implementing conversion to an all-electric world. We’ll return to that thought later.
In the meantime, here are six big takeaways from Griffith’s book.
Takeaway #1: We must electrify everything, including vehicles—cars, trucks and buses. We must fully electrify our buildings—commercial, institutional, industrial, residential and public facilities—and everything we do within them.
Takeaway #2: To accomplish the main goals in the movement to electrify everything, no new technology is required. Nothing must be invented.
Takeaway #3: We need to keep up the rate at which we have been adding new solar, wind and hydro in recent years. If we do, we could conceivably achieve zero-emission power generation as soon as 15 years from now, especially with the inclusion of nuclear power.
Takeaway #4: We need to add battery storage to the point of over-supply. Our grand strategy for storage must include, for example, vehicle-to-grid solutions. Of course, we must be more careful than ever in how we consume electric power.
Takeaway #5: Griffith’s vision to electrify everything in our economy will, in his estimation, triple the demand for electricity in the United States. He is not calling for the “reduce, reuse, recycle” philosophy, which came along as a reaction to the energy crisis of the 1970s. He is not telling us to become more spartan, but just to behave smarter.
Takeaway #6: Our sixth gleaning is not based on what he advocates, but instead surrounds something Griffith has overlooked.
We think that any strategy as grand and global as “the electrification of everything” must include mobilizing everyone in the electrical industry to advance it. No one in the world could be more convincing about its merits than the individual electrician.
The ultimate buy-in to the EOE (our nickname for it) will come more quickly and dependably to the body politic if electrical contractors and everyone in their service and maintenance organizations fully understand and embrace it.
But there’s a catch: as much as we might believe that the conversion of our society to an all-electric mode of life logically ought to fall squarely into the hands of electrical contractors, there is no guarantee it will. The faster the EOE takes hold, the more likely other players will grab onto it.
In every line of business today, you’re in competition with your peers and new entrants who do not feel compelled to abide by existing norms. Barely 20 years old, Tesla is a prominent example of this principle. Its market share of electric vehicle sales (about two-thirds) is at least four times the percentage that the largest legacy automakers have traditionally been accustomed to capturing.
Electrical contractors will need to step up their game to gain and retain the most from the electrification of everything. For the most part, EOE will involve converting and upgrading existing apparatuses and facilities. It has “service and maintenance” written all over it. But electrical contractors must resolve to go after it, or very likely watch it go elsewhere.
Header image source: Shutterstock / MockUpSpot
About The Author
MCCOY is Beliveau professor in the Dept. of Building Construction, associate director of the Myers-Lawson School of Construction and director of the Virginia Center for Housing Research at Virginia Tech. Contact him at [email protected].
SARGENT is president of Great Service Forums, provider of management education for service managers. Contact him at [email protected].