Utilities are planning to shift to clean energy — just not too quickly


CEO of electricity research group EPRI says U.S. utilities are poised to go big on solar, wind and batteries — but they aren’t ready to give up their gas and coal plants just yet.

“You will also hear every one of [these utilities] saying that if we don’t take care of affordability and reliability, that will be the biggest obstacle to go to clean energy, because if customers get upset, it will have a negative impact on the clean energy transition.” said Arshad Mansoor, CEO of the Electric Power Research Institute. Read more in Utilities are planning to shift to clean energy — just not too quickly

Key Takeaways:

  • At EPRI’s Electrification 2022 conference, leading utilities unanimously embraced cutting carbon emissions and electrifying transportation. However, they urged caution at moving too quickly.
  • Most utilities know this is the decade to invest in wind, solar and battery storage. They have determined that grids can handle levels of renewable generation that were previously unthinkable — in fact, this is already happening in many states.
  • The COVID pandemic came at the worst time, causing major delays in the supply chain and slowing the construction of renewable resources.
  • Mansoor feels it may be necessary to keep some coal plants around as backup power sources to ensure a reliable power source, because wind and solar power is not always reliable and battery technology is not yet capable of long-term duration.
  • He says clean firm resources such as small modular nuclear reactors or clean hydrogen-burning turbines could eventually take that role, as could cheap long-duration energy storage, but they’re all still years away.

Path to 100% Perspective

The Path to 100% agrees that the way to a 100% clean energy future is through increased renewable energy sources like wind and solar power while maintaining a reliable backup system. To balance the intermittent nature of these renewable power sources, engine power plants and energy storage are ideal. While we are waiting for battery storage to improve, Wartsila’s flexible power plants are already generating reliable, backup power when solar and wind are not enough. They are capable of powering up and down quickly, unlike traditional coal-powered thermal power plants which could take hours to ramp up when energy is needed.