Readout of the White House Electrification Summit: Achieving Our Climate and Equity Goals
On Wednesday, December 14, 2022, the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), Climate Policy Office (CPO), and Office of Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation hosted the first-ever White House Electrification Summit. Dozens of leaders from government, industry, labor, academia, and stakeholder groups participated and many viewers from across the country joined virtually.
The event showcased bold actions on electrification from the Biden-Harris Administration and the unprecedented opportunities for inclusive electrification created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). It also initiated robust conversations about a public-private electrification innovation strategy to accelerate affordable, equitable, and efficient electrification of American homes, businesses, and transportation.
Opening Panel Highlights
OSTP Director Arati Prabhakar opened the event by describing the essential role electrification plays in addressing climate change and in meeting the energy needs of all Americans. She also framed the challenge:
“We’ve been electrifying our lives and our economy for 140 years, and we’ve made a lot of progress. But now what we’re going to have to do to meet our goals for 2050 is to triple the rate of electrification. … That is a task that is going to require not just new innovation, but actually new forms of innovation. Because the kinds of challenges that are ahead of us are deeply systemic challenges, it’s going to require systems innovation.”
Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm highlightedthe Department of Energy’s (DOE) twin roles of helping deploy the advanced technologies that we have today while innovating for the future. Secretary Granholm also announced three new DOE initiatives at the Summit: 1) a prize to accelerate equitable, affordable, and simple solutions for home electrification; 2) a regional network of Technical Assistance Partnerships to help industrial and other facilities increase the adoption of onsite energy technologies; and 3) an investment of up to $45 million to research, development, and demonstration of high-impact, cost-effective building technologies and retrofit practices that will reduce carbon emissions, improve flexibility and resilience, and lower energy costs.
“We’ve got the today challenge of deploy-deploy-deploy the energy generation that we know will work in terms of clean energy. And we’ve got the tomorrow challenge of figuring out the technologies that will take us to the next level. … One huge piece of this of course is making sure that we electrify and create efficiencies both within our homes and across the industrial sector. … This is our moment to all work together to deploy, deploy, deploy, to get to that clean energy future that we all care about.”
Brenda Mallory, Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality, highlighted the release of the first-ever Federal Building Performance Standard just one week prior to the Summit. She also emphasized the Administration’s approach to inclusive electrification.
“We’re doing the hard work to make sure that the voices of communities who have the most to lose, but also the most to gain, are at the center of the conversation and designing the implementation strategy. … Through these climate solutions we can keep leveling the playing field for disadvantaged communities and forge a brighter tomorrow. The writing is on the wall. Electrification is our ticket to a clean and equitable future.”
John Podesta, Senior Advisor to the President for Clean Energy Innovation and Implementation, emphasized how President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act will accelerate affordable electrification for everyone.
“The Inflation Reduction Act will help millions of Americans afford clean electric technologies. … [These technologies] can save you hundreds to thousands of dollars per year on your energy bills. The Inflation Reduction Act is a game changer for families who want to save money and breathe cleaner air. … The Administration will be putting out detailed guidance to help Americans understand how to take advantage of the IRA’s new tax credits, rebates, and loan programs.”
Mitch Landrieu, White House Infrastructure Coordinator, praised the successes of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that is improving the lives of all Americans.
“The President has a vision for creating a better America. One that’s just, one that’s more resilient, one that as he says ‘lifts the burdens off the backs’ just to make it a little bit easier for everyday Americans. Many of you that have been around the block a long time have heard presidents talk about really changing the trajectory of the country. This President actually got it done. … We’re building on the work that generations before us have done. Now it’s our job to bring it home.”
Geri Richmond, DOE Under Secretary for Science and Innovation, illustrated how the climate crisis and opportunities for clean energy and electrification are uniting the next generation of American leaders and innovators. Under Secretary Richmond also highlighted how the DOE EarthShots are expanding clean energy discoveries and rapidly advancing these through demonstration and deployment.
“I have been around DOE and the scientific enterprise in this country for several decades and I have never seen such passion and commitment to get things done in an urgent manner. I can’t tell you how wonderful it is to talk to young students thinking about what they want to do in their career, and they want to do this right, they want to do this now, and they want to make a difference. … DOE’s Industrial Heat Shot that we have going on supports advancements across the industry to electrify heat production and reduce or eliminate the need for heat from fossil fuels in industrial applications. This is huge.”
Senator Martin Heinrich, Co-Chair of the Bicameral Electrification Caucus, recalled his father’s career as an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) lineman and the influence it had on him from a young age. He highlighted how electrification will provide similar opportunities for high-quality careers for many American families in the coming years in addition to lowering energy costs and creating the opportunity for more comfortable homes for all.
“My own state of New Mexico is getting $87 million dollars of consumer facing rebates so that people can buy heat pump water heaters and heat pumps and all the different things that are going to allow us to have cleaner, safer, healthier, more comfortable homes, including low- and moderate-income folks. … [Electrification jobs] are great jobs. Those are a lot like the jobs my dad had. … [He] didn’t have a college degree but you know had a really quality career in the trades. … We’re going to have to do all of this really quickly, but the opportunities for America are enormous … This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to Electrify America’s future”
Transportation Innovation Panel Highlights
Andrew Wishnia, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Climate Policy at the Department of Transportation, moderated the transportation electrification panel. The panel highlighted transportation technology advances, progress in building out charging infrastructure, and the core principles for an equitable transition. Innovation needs identified include better, cheaper vehicles, secure interoperability, managed charging, vehicle-to-grid integration to support reliability and resiliency, transport mode shifts, and new planning paradigms that expand the benefits of electrification to advance equity.
Opening the session, Deputy Assistant Secretary Wishnia emphasized how rapidly transport electrification policy discussions have advanced in the last five years, the need for systems thinking to accelerate change, and the imperative to make the benefits accessible to all.
Travis Hester, General Motors Vice President of EV Growth Operations, highlighted GM’s full commitment to an electrified future:
“General Motors envisions a future with zero crashes, zero emissions, and zero congestion. We have a plan for our global operations and products to be carbon neutral by 2040. We are taking a holistic view of this transformation, beyond just vehicles or charging stations, but the entire EV ecosystem. At GM, we work closely with our utility partners, which gives us the opportunity to look at some of the white spaces between the electric vehicles and the grid. For example, vehicle-to-grid integration that provides resiliency and cuts costs for customers.”
Debra Gore-Mann, CEO of the Greenlining Institute, provided her vision of a future where communities of color can build wealth, live in healthy places with economic opportunity, and be ready to meet the challenges of climate change.
“Transportation electrification offers a once-in-a-generation opportunity to not only vastly reduce carbon emissions but also serve to disrupt systems of inequity. … We should start with the community, build trust, identify need, build capacity, and prioritize equity at all levels. We need to prioritize the needs of the historically underserved who have the most to gain while creating viable and sustainable solutions for everyone.”
Maria Pope, Portland General Electric CEO, highlighted the dual roles the electric sector plays in driving economy-wide greenhouse gas emission reductions through decarbonizing electric generation and enabling reductions across the economy via electrification. In addition to efforts supporting electric passenger vehicles, she highlighted actions to enable trucks, buses, and last-mile delivery.
“Heavy-duty trucks and buses. These are one of the largest sources of emissions in our economy and they are also one of the most challenging. Portland General, along with other utilities, formed the West Coast Clean Transit Corridor focused on heavy-duty vehicle charging between Canada and Mexico, along Interstate 5. We also work closely with transit authorities, in particular TriMet, which runs all its buses on alternative fuels or electricity. … And finally, last mile delivery fleets are the easiest to electrify, the most impactful, and fastest growing. We currently have around 80 projects working with fleets that are in different stages of development.”
Gabe Klein, Executive Director of the Joint Office of Energy and Transportation, provided a perspective on building a nationwide network of 500,000 EV chargers over the next 5 years.
“This is the most exciting time to be working in this space … Now we are up to 140,000 public charging ports. All 50 states, Puerto Rico, and DC have their charging plans approved, we are close to releasing technical guidance on minimum standards, and about $1.5 billion out of the $5 billion in the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Formula Program (created by the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) is currently available to the States.”
Buildings Innovation Panel Highlights
Trisha Miller, CPO Senior Director for Industrial and Building Emissions, moderated the buildings electrification panel which addressed the central role of buildings in addressing climate change; recent technology advances that make electric options cost-effective and commercially available; the ties between buildings, health, and climate benefits; and challenges to make electrification benefits accessible by all. While today’s technology can efficiently meet household and business needs in many cases, speakers indicated that innovation is still needed to drive down equipment costs, shift to cleaner refrigerants, support interoperability and flexible operation, ease the challenge of retrofitting equipment, and create new financing strategies.
Fedrick Ingram, Secretary-Treasurer of the American Federation of Teachers, provided his views on the importance of the clean energy transition and electrification of buildings and transport for the future of young people, particularly those in disadvantaged communities.
“As an educator and a union leader, I see climate … through a justice lens. The climate crisis impacts everything and everyone, but people of color, the poor, and disadvantaged disproportionately suffer its effects, exacerbating inequity. … If we connect the dots, the clean energy transition can be a win-win-win for children’s health and environmental and economic justice.”
Alex Laskey, Founder and Executive Chair of Rewiring America, highlighted the role of household and business energy choices in addressing climate, cited estimates of cost savings and job creation, and argued that electrification fundamentally changes the paradigm regarding climate action – lowering emissions while getting better service at lower cost.
“From our count, 42% of all emissions [result from] decisions that are made at kitchen tables. That includes the cars we drive as well as how we heat our homes, heat the water in our homes, cook our food, and dry our clothing. … [Electrification creates] an opportunity for financial savings on the order of $1800 a year on average across the U.S. per household in a country where more than half of Americans don’t have $1000 to meet an emergency need. … [With the Inflation Reduction Act], the average American household has an electric bank account … it’s got $10,600 on average in it to help people electrify their homes. The challenge is that nobody knows about it yet. [We] have to let people know they have this money waiting for them to help them save.”
Ruth Ann Norton, CEO of the Green & Healthy Homes Initiative, emphasized the connections between electrification, building improvement, improved health, and the opportunities the IRA provides for restorative justice.
“The dollars that come forth out of [the Inflation Reduction Act] allow us to do a number of things, improve heath and change our health system so that Medicaid, the National Institutes of Health, and others understand that decarbonization and electrification [are] a health measure. It [also] allows us to improve stability in housing for families, which [is so important] to financial wealth-building and mental health. … We will save billions of dollars in Medicaid over the next decade simply by accelerating the reduction of preventable asthma incidents … and emergency room visits. … In lower income communities, the barriers [to widespread electrification] are cost and culture. Families across America have survived winters [using] their gas stoves for heat because they haven’t been able to pay their electric bill or their electric [supply] isn’t reliable. … We have to do a really good job [addressing] those cultural barriers and why electrification works.”
Katrina Managan, Director of Buildings and Homes at the Denver Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency, provided an on-the-ground perspective on lessons learned from implementing electrification programs at the city and county level. She highlighted the importance of pairing financial incentives with advanced building codes and educational resources.
“Cities and states are the level of government where buildings are regulated. And in Denver, buildings and homes are responsible for 64% of the greenhouse gas emissions. … We [have] found that transitioning to heat pumps in existing buildings in many cases is cost-effective today [and] in many cases improves safety. In 30% of low-income homes in Denver, natural gas equipment fails carbon monoxide tests. … In 2021, the city formed the Energized Denver Task Force and asked them to design requirements for existing commercial and multifamily buildings that improve health and equity, create jobs, and achieve net-zero energy in existing buildings…The resulting Energize Denver Ordinance will reduce emissions from existing buildings 80% by 2040. … We learned [through these processes that] when community leaders develop and own the change and when regulations are paired with incentives, more ambitious solutions are possible.”
Alejandro Moreno, Acting Assistant Secretary of the DOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, offered his perspectives on building technologies and the institutional barriers to widespread electrification.
“The vast majority of technologies we need for the majority of use cases exist today … and are about three times more efficient than their fossil fuel-based counterparts. … [There is, of course,] room for improvement, especially around heat pumps to drive down cost and improve performance, particularly in cold climates. … Another key DOE focus is enabling demand flexibility, which can provide critical services to the future grid. There are technology elements to this challenge, but also policy and regulatory elements, and huge challenges just around how to manage all of these resources as an integral part of the overall electric system. And the full extent of demand flexibility is ultimately driven by human decisions—people sitting around the kitchen table, the boardroom, the mechanical room—and this requires social science research to examine how people respond to incentives and how this can provide tools that utilities can depend on to operate the grid.”
Grid and Systems Innovation Panel Highlights
Sally Benson, OSTP Deputy Director for Energy, moderated the grid and systems innovation panel. Speakers addressed pathways to a more digitized, diversified, and distributed electricity system that unlocks the benefits of electrification for all Americans. Their discussion of innovation needs highlighted the need for systems thinking and addressed specific technology innovations as well as planning, institutional and community innovations to achieve equitable change.
Dr. Benson provided a vision of how the future electric grid will differ from today and changes needed to enable electrification.
“Today, 21% of end-use energy comes from the grid. … As we electrify cars, light-duty fleets, heating, and more industrial applications, the fraction of end-use energy supplied by the grid is expected to double or even triple. … Tomorrow’s grid … under the wires … will look vastly different. Digital technology—the ubiquitous presence of sensors and controls—will open new opportunities for customer choice, control, and efficiency. Diversification of energy supplies and demand, driven by plummeting costs of renewable energy and climate concerns, will change how and where we generate electricity. Electrification of buildings, transportation, and industry will diversify how and where we use [electricity]. Where we generate, store, and use electricity will be distributed differently between the bulk power and neighborhood grid systems than it is today. Harnessing the power of this digitized, diversified, and distributed electricity system, will unlock the benefits of electrification for all Americans. With all the opportunities ahead, it is clear that the electric grid is the heartbeat of a complex system that needs to be carefully managed to realize this potential.”
Rudy Wynter, CEO of National Grid New York, discussed three grid innovations that National Grid is deploying today in New York and Massachusetts that are examples of the investments they are making to support customers and help implement state policies.
“Our strategic response around the grid started with the customer. … In October 2022, we announced a project to deploy our dynamic line rating technologies and we are executing the largest project using dynamic line rating in the U.S. … This technology is essentially sensors that allow us to understand … the power flows … on a real-time basis. This reduces cost to customers because we can optimize use of existing assets, it reduces bottlenecks that have recently led to renewable curtailment, and it opens up transmission capacity for an addition 200MW of renewables without adding transmission. … In considering rapid electrification and grid modernization, there is a fine line between being in time and being late. We don’t want the grid to be late. It has to be an enabler of the entire energy transition and not slow it down. To do that, government, utilities, regulators, organized labor, and consumers have to change the planning paradigm from a reactive paradigm to one that is very deliberate, very proactive, looking at long-term planning that’s tied to our climate change goals.”
Chris Irwin, DOE Program Manager for Transactive Energy, Communications, and Interoperability in Smart Grid, discussed the next generation of research and development that will enable widespread and rapid adoption of electrification, highlighting the democratization of the grid as essential for tying together effectively the many advances in individual technologies.
“The Office of Electricity at DOE works on advancing a broad array of individual technologies: solid-state electronics, vehicle-grid integration, storage, transactive energy, and advanced microgrids sensors and controls. But, some of the most important work we do across DOE and with industry is thinking about the systems implications of full electrification. How do we need to shape our system and redesign it into a form that can that can handle the transformational activity going on? Electricity customers, with their electric vehicles, their homes, and their businesses, can actively contribute to the control, the reliability, and the resilience of the grid. And they deserve to be compensated for it. … Democratizing the grid is not just about energy but it’s also about data. As our society relies more fully on the grid for its energy needs, the flow of information between the grid and customers and among grid operators has to accelerate. A great example of this is the Outage Data Initiative Nationwide, or ODIN. Several weeks ago, DOE and the Office of Science and Technology Policy issued a call for utilities to voluntarily provide outage data in a standard format to a national data base. As a result, coverage increased by 400% and now 40 million people in the U.S. are covered by these agreements.”
Austin Keyser, IBEW Assistant to the International President for Government Affairs, addressed accelerated electrification from a labor perspective.
“Skilled labor is an essential part of the electrification transformation. Whether manufacturing the components, constructing the facilities, or receiving world-class training through EVITP, the IBEW’s members are fully integrated into the electric system. The IBEW represents workers at private and public utilities across the country, and we are the largest vocational trainer of electricians in the world, with 55,000 registered apprentices and 20,000 journey-level electricians trained at the EVITP standard to install EV charging stations across the country. As we look ahead, it’s critical that we focus on market predictability. The Biden Administration’s new industrial policy, including recently enacted laws like the Inflation Reduction Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, are a major step in the right direction. Now, we’ve got to make sure we get implementation right, and that means upholding the critical labor standards that we fought so hard to include.”
Ann Rendahl, Washington Utilities and Transportation Commissioner, offered her personal views based upon years of experience as a commissioner and recent efforts to implement Washington’s state laws and administrative rules that are driving changes to the electric grid while maintaining reliability and affordability and improving equity.
“The state’s utilities will need to make significant investments in the distribution grid. … These include investments in systems that provide visibility into and flexible management of customer resources, … investments in reliability and resilience through more locally-sourced and distributed generation, including long-term storage, microgrids, and grid hardening, … and investments in under-resourced and impacted communities to ensure those communities see the benefits of electrification and a clean energy economy and to address long-term inequities and job opportunities. The funding from the IRA and BIL will make many of these investments more affordable, reducing the cost of customer’s investments and the cost of utility investments.”
Closing Remarks Highlights
Representative Sean Casten, Co-Chair of the Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition Power Sector Task Force, conveyed the importance of electrification and the need for both technology and regulatory innovation, including new electricity market design.
“We absolutely cannot decarbonize, meet our decarbonization goals … without massively electrifying our [energy] system [and] building a ton of clean electricity generation. That requires technological innovation … but a lot of that also requires regulatory innovation, and we’ve got to do both. … We’ve built a grid and developed a whole dispatch model based on the idea that we have fueled generators that will dispatch and respond to a marginal price signal and optimize in response to whatever the load happens to be doing. And we now have to figure out how to design a system that [has] a bunch of zero [marginal] cost generators, … a lot of downstream demand actions, … and a lot of intermediate [capabilities] with respect to storage that can modulate and respond … to some variability on the generation side. … We’ve got to have [effective] system control.”
Sally Benson’s closing remarks highlighted electrification innovation challenges and our history of meeting such challenges.
“The combination of a [net-zero] grid and electrification is one of five priorities for the Net-Zero Game Changers Initiative, a new cross-agency research and development initiative to ensure that all the technologies … needed to meet our 2050 net-zero goals are ready to scale. … It’s not just about technology innovation, … access to innovation is just as important so we make sure that we create opportunities for everyone. … We need systems innovation … The key here is to have all the parts work together. Cars, space heating, hot water, air conditioning, and all the other things we use electricity for. [They] need to work together seamlessly, efficiently, and reliably. [And we] need business innovation, finance innovation, [and] regulatory innovation to provide people-centered … solutions. … The prize is great: cleaner air, a stable climate and more affordable energy bills.”
Ali Zaidi, National Climate Advisor, closed the event with a strong call to action.
“We are in the decisive decade for climate action. That’s not something we choose for ourselves, it’s something the science dictates. … And you don’t have to flip through the pages of a scientific report. You can see it in our communities, in the fires, and in the floods and droughts, and in the hurricanes. That is a reality that we face. … If you’re a business, this is not the moment to launch a committee … to look at the challenge, this is the time to greenlight capital projects. If you are a member of the legislature, … the is not the time for committees to convene hearings upon hearings. It’s the time to take bold actions. … This can be a moment where we put steel in the spine of the American middle class. And the way we know how to do that is by investing in workers …. The clean energy technologies will be stamped ‘Made in America’. …You could not have a stronger partner in the oval office more excited to work with you on all of these objectives.”