Creating a Heat Wave of Change
Another 100+ degree day here in Texas (now 104). We clocked 21 days in triple digits in June, and the week ending July 14th was the hottest 7-day period in Austin history. Lest we not think we’re in this alone, NOAA reported that the global surface temperature in June 2022 “was the sixth-highest in the 143-year record at 0.87°C (1.57°F) above the 20th century average.”
Fortunately, I am writing this in my dining room, served by an operating central air conditioning system so far not affected by “limited and transient load shed.” I’ve moved from my unconditioned garage, which isn’t so bad in the morning, but we also just parked the car in there, so I had to retreat indoors.
We are seeing the convergence of climate change and the GridEdge yet again this summer, with steady high temperatures and reliability problems. I see articles (such as this one in the Wall Street Journal or this one in Vox) about private companies or governments bringing technology solutions to market, like the fact that Ben & Jerry’s has figured out how to get their cows to “fart and burp less,” although I believe I’ll be fed a red seaweed diet at home starting fairly soon. However, I am not seeing much copy about utilities leading the way.
Utility Customer Concerns
Which is interesting, because Zpryme recently highlighted its monthly “Consumer Perceptions on Climate Change and Clean Program Investment” report. The intent of the report is to “track consumer sentiment about the priority level utilities should be placing on climate change initiatives and clean energy program investments in wind, solar, and electric vehicles (EVs).”
Based on the report, on average over the past year, nearly half of all customers believe that addressing climate change is a moderate to essential priority for utilities, and a comparable amount back investment in clean energy programs. Not surprisingly, the Western Region has the highest level of support, with over 60 percent of customers calling on utilities to address climate change in that region and nearly 60 percent asking for clean energy programs.
While utilities may be concerned about “taking sides” in a political debate, your grounded objectivity and your ability to help people take action that might help us get beyond the current political stalemate. As a utility, it’s important to remember climate change is not a political issue – the extreme weather events we’re seeing recently do not pick and choose who or where to affect because of one’s political stance. And, despite the politicization of climate change, over 70% of Americans believe it’s happening and are worried about the harm it’s having and will have on both humans and the environment in years to come.
Dr. Katherine Hayhoe, author of Saving Us: A Climate Scientist’s Case for Hope and Healing in a Divided World, is well-versed when it comes to discussing climate change with people who hold different political beliefs. Knowing that most of the population believes in climate change and feels fear about the issue, the question becomes how can we “activate” someone who is worried about climate change but hasn’t acted yet? Dr. Hayhoe says the first step is to undercut politics because it does not require changing political parties to become a climate activist. “It’s a matter of showing people they are already the perfect person to care because of who they are, and climate action would be a more genuine expression of their identity. It’s about reminding people they want to be a good steward, that they want a better future.” (For a recent interview with Dr. Hayhoe, please read this article in the New York Times.)
Utilities have a unique ability that few entities have – to address their customers about climate change in a way that takes politics and fear out of the conversation. As a utility, you have the power to encourage your customers to act on climate change by showing them how they can participate in your customer programs, and how easy it can be. Customers want their utility to take action, and utilities want their customers to take action. Utilities can start the conversation by reminding their customers they want to be a good steward and have a better future. Systemwide change will only happen through individual action.
We’re getting beyond the point where utilities need to regulate rooftop PV, battery backup or distributed energy systems solely to ensure safety. Instead, utilities need to be *actively marketing* DERs with programs, services and funds, and planning the delivery of specific programs to achieve specific grid outcomes.
If you have questions on how you can design programs and services to target specific areas of your grid, analyze the potential grid impact, and deliver these programs scalably and efficiently, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.