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Electrification and Alternative Fuels

Powerlines, Denver skyline in background. Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
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Powerlines, Denver skyline in background. Source: National Renewable Energy Laboratory.

Electrification of the energy system is the process of increasing the types of energy demands that are met through electricity, rather than burning fuels directly. Currently, most energy users are accustomed to drawing upon a variety of sources to meet their energy requirements. For example, at the household level, a family may use natural gas for heating and cooking, gasoline for their car, electricity for air conditioning, lighting and electronics. However, technology improvements provide new opportunities to accomplish more of these energy services using electricity. Doing so can yield substantial improvements in efficiency or performance while also increasing the benefits of power sector decarbonization (discussed in the next section).

Mark Jacobson’s studies on the U.S. energy system have found that converting from a combustion based system to one electrified by renewable sources would yield a ~39% reduction in end-use load with ~82% of this saving due to electrification and the remaining due to improving end-use efficiencies (Jacobson 2009, 2015).