Energy Efficiency will Drive Utilities in the Future: Southern Co. Discusses How
Electricity is at the heart of the U.S. energy economy. And the numbers say so.
A report by the Manhattan Institute cites this fascinating statistic: In 1950, 20 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product was directly dependent on electricity. By 2008, that number had tripled to 60 percent. Additionally, the report states that over 85 percent of the U.S. energy growth since 1980 was met by electricity.
While the fabric of our energy landscape finds itself dependent on electricity rather than oil, this is favorable for energy supplied by domestic resources and supports growing energy independence and security.
As one of the largest producers of electricity in the country, Southern Company knows well the ever-increasing need for energy. And that demand continues to grow as new energy-efficient, cost-effective ways to electrify the United States are discovered.
In the Southeast, which we serve, there are several examples. One is the Georgia Port Authority in Savannah, the fourth-largest container port in the United States. A few years ago, the port converted some of its diesel equipment — ship-to-shore cranes and refrigerated cargo racks — to electric equipment. In 2009, port officials reported that this move reduced their diesel usage by more than 4 million gallons a year. The lower operating costs and emissions prompted the port to electrify even more of its equipment.
The Alabama State Port Authority electrified a major dredging project in Mobile, Ala., and reported a large fuel and emissions savings as well. The Electric Power Research Institute estimates that more than 28 tons of emissions of pollutants per day were avoided by using electric equipment, rather than diesel equipment, for this project.
Another example: Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta Inter- national Airport and Delta Air Lines are so satisfied with the results of converting equipment from diesel to electric that a charging infrastructure to support electric equipment is being integrated into Hartsfield’s new international terminal.
These are just a few initiatives where substituting electro-technologies for other energy resources is great for consumers. It’s great for America as well. The United States spends $1 billion a day on foreign oil, while our electricity is made right here in America.
As plug-in electric vehicles become increasingly available, we expect to see even more demand for electricity. The primary factor driving today’s consumers to this latest electro-technology is cost. Both gasoline and diesel prices outweigh those of electricity. Based on gasoline prices in the Southeast and our average Southern Company retail rates, it’s estimated that electric vehicle owners in the Southeast will save about 60 percent of what they currently spend on gasoline.
In today’s world, energy efficiency must be a part of any energy discussion. We all agree that promoting the efficient and clean use of energy will benefit Americans, our environment, our economy and our national security.
At Southern Company, we try to help our customers use energy more efficiently. That doesn’t mean they necessarily will use less electricity, which is how some define energy efficiency. It means that we’re actively promoting ways to help them use every kilowatt-hour of electricity more wisely, taking advantage of better insulation, energy-efficient appliances and end-use technologies, for example.
As consumers continue to save money and overall energy by using electro-technologies rather than technologies powered by other energy resources, and as our environment and national security benefit as well, the electrification of the United States will continue to be the lifeblood of the economy.
Susan Story is chief executive of Southern Co. and management services. This story first appeared in EnergyBiz magazine can be found here: http://energybiz.com/magazine/article/243237/rising-role-electricity