Here’s the conversation that I’m not seeing in the headlines: where is all the power coming from?
There is plenty of news about an increase in EV sales or how the charging grid is increasing. Maybe there are things you see about wind and solar initiatives. Every so often, you hear about a significant grid failing from extreme weather – but rarely do you hear about the stuff that travels through the wires: the actual electricity.
In the US, most of us who live on the grid have the luxury of plugging something into the wall and knowing it will turn on. For that to continue to happen, all of us who work in various tangents of the energy industry – from production to regulation to implementation – know we need to buckle in for what is going to be a crazy ride for the next few years.
So I want to talk about what isn’t necessarily being talked about when it comes to the relationship between energy production and capacity.
The Rise of Electric Everything.
My neighbor mows his lawn with an electric mower. Every week he drops in a 40V, 4.0Ah battery into his bright green mower and cuts everything to an exact length. When he’s done, he drops the battery back into the charger where it waits for the grass to grow. It’s nice when he mows early on a weekend; I hardly hear the thing running.
But I’m not worried about the battery mowers, even if every single home had a mower. Even if every lawn-care company used them, I’m not worried. We should be a little bit worried about the onset of every home potentially replacing their cars and trucks with something electric. Just about every major auto manufacturer is racing to electrify their lineup, and numerous upstarts are cropping up looking for their market share. On average, a topped-off electric car can power the typical American household for three days. Assuming every car gets a full charge every week or so, we’re looking at a 30-ish percent increase in household demand – more for two-car households.
The data centers that connect everything are getting bigger and require more power. AI, as simple as it seems, consumes a fair amount of power, and it is only set to grow.
On a conservative estimate, we may need to ensure we have a way to produce at least 50% more energy. More than that, we need to ensure the grids can handle the increased load.
Time To Stand In Line
On one hand, grid connection requests grew about 40% in 2022. On the other hand, the backlog for these requests is only getting longer. What used to be a 2-year window to study grid impact is now closer to four and likely will only increase. More producers want to add energy of all kinds to the grid, but the linkup is a slow process.
Given the power demands on the horizon, the higher-producing facilities should get priority. But consumer demand is bringing more alternative energy providers to the lineup.
Investment in producers is essential, but so is investing in the institutions and regulators – even if it just comes down to keeping the administrative tasks moving – will do wonders to keep this queue moving.
As extreme weather conditions become more common, we can expect grids to fail at the consumer level – trees taking out neighborhood power lines or entire facilities going offline. This is usually a matter of getting enough linemen on the job to get everything plugged in again. On a grander scale, there is the question of maintaining the flow from one grid to the next all across the country. As more middle-of-nowhere towns get Tesla Supercharging stations – which draw a massive amount of power – we may have to start reinforcing grids in new places.
Plus, with the increased demand for renewable and sustainable power sources, we need a grid that can easily switch from one producer to ensure the end-user experience doesn’t fluctuate.
It’s going to be a busy couple of years. Every administration has a new directive, and every global hiccup causes ripples throughout the industry. From where we sit, we are here to keep your lights on and your facility running as efficiently as possible. While the world moves forward at a crazy rate, Motus Group is here to keep things moving – if only to keep my neighbor’s battery mower charged so I can sleep in on Sundays.