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Issues Of The Environment: ‘Beneficial Electrification’-A Potential Key To Combatting Climate Change

Matt Grocoff
Wikipedia Media Commons

Imagine a future in which no home or business had gas furnaces, heaters or stoves.  Everything is electric.  Neighborhoods and communities running on connected micro-grids.  Everything is electric.  Net-Zero Energy expert and founding principal of Thrive Collaborative in Ann Arbor, Matt Grocoff is a strong proponent of the concept of “Beneficial Electrification.”  It is a concept that will be used in Thrive’s new “Veridian @ County Farm” housing development in Ann Arbor.  It is the subject of conversation in this week’s edition of “Issues of the Environment."


  • “Beneficial electrification” is one of the latest catchphrases in the energy world.  It references the increasing realization that using low-carbon sources of electricity (instead of higher carbon fossil fuel sources) can help to mitigate climate change.  A switch to clean sources of electrical power for commercial and residential operations is more sustainable and less expensive in the long run.
  • Beneficial electrification questions the premise that investment in infrastructure that necessitates long term reliance on natural gas is the best practice for reducing GHG emissions.  (Two examples of this in our region are the new $80 million gas turbine approved by the UM Board of Regents for UM this September, and the $1 billion dollar DTE construction of a new natural gas power plant beginning in 2019, even as coal powered plants are being retired.  These project are billed as greatly reducing GHG emissions over coal.)  As the large utilities get deeper into natural gas, the concept of beneficial electrification represents a major shift in a different direction.  Counterintuitively, electrification can be seen as a win-win by the utilities.
  • The projected increasing adoption of EVs will place a tremdous about of new load on the grid.  A strong case for transitioning to greater electrification now rests on the need to power more and more EVs.  From this angle, an all-electric future is a benefit for both the utilities and for the environment.
  • Matt Grocoff says that electrification, as a transition to all-electric, needs to happen expediently.  He suggests that local residents begin to participate by investing in heat pump heating and a/c, and by switching to induction cooking, heat pump clothes dryers, and heat pump water heaters. 

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