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Business-minded solutions for a better energy future

Updated: Feb 11

I. Introduction


Energy. It’s the lifeblood of our homes, our communities, our businesses, our economy, our world. Pulsing through an often-invisible but complex system of arteries, veins and capillaries, it has been quietly keeping our modern society progressing for more than a century.


The United States’ power grid is an engineering masterpiece. Birthed from the simple idea of artificial light, it spread from its miniscule origins in a corner of 1880s Manhattan. Today, thousands of generators create power carried to every corner of America on hundreds of thousands of miles of lines. As wondrous a machine as our power grid is, it has become outdated. The system – and our livelihood – is threatened by a number of factors posed by our modern existence. That behemoth that has been constantly and silently powering our world is demanding our immediate attention.


Our power grid is aged: much of it was built in the post-war era. It’s maxed out: many of the U.S.’s high voltage lines are at capacity[1]. It’s becoming increasingly unreliable, susceptible to disruption from both natural and man-made disaster. It emits pollution and eats up resources. The bottom line: the energy system we are so reliant on is no longer sustainable.

But a new day is dawning. Innovation can help us evolve our power system into the safe, clean and reliable model our modern world needs. The private sector is the largest consumer of electricity; a successful energy future depends on business-focused solutions. Those impactful but profitable innovations have now arrived.


II. Background


From a light bulb to a life necessity


Our power grid still largely operates in the framework of its infancy. It began with a flash of genius – and light. Conducting experiments in a New Jersey lab, Thomas Edison made innovative strides that would later literally enlighten the modern world. When he patented the incandescent light bulb in 1880, he created one of the first practical uses for the fledgling science of electricity. By 1882, he launched what would later be known as General Electric and soon opened the country’s first power plant in Manhattan which served nearby homes and businesses[2]. When Edison partnered with business strategist Samuel Insull, electricity quickly transformed from a luxury for the elite to the essential commodity we know today. By increasing the size and efficiency of generators, creating mass production opportunities and enacting smart pricing strategies, Insull discovered a way to make electricity increasingly available and affordable for Americans[3]. Decades of innovation followed, lengthening grids’ reaches until they lit up every corner of the country.


Our electricity is still flowing through the same one-way system; generated at immense plants and trickling down to the consumer through transmission and distribution networks. Though recent strides have been made, the energy utility industry’s legislative framework established during the Great Depression followed us into the 21stcentury[4]. Our grid still includes infrastructure constructed in the 1950s and 1960s[5]. Our world has changed, but fundamentally, our power grid has not.


The unrestricted free flow of cheap electricity didn’t last, however. The 1973 oil crisis meant the price of energy shot up 350% virtually overnight, sending vibrations through every last corner of America[6]. But with crisis came adaptation. For the first time, conservation and sustainability began to permeate the collective mentality. Almost a half century later, it’s these mindsets, along with systemic reform of our antiquated grid, that will help us thrive beyond another, greater energy crisis that is upon us.


Our outdated, unreliable, unsustainable essential commodity


Our population and our reliance on electricity grows and grows. Our demand has increased to the point of dependency for advancements in automation, technology and machinery. R. James Woolsey, former head of the CIA, testified to Congress that if there were an extended shutdown of the electric grid “there are essentially two estimates on how many people would die from hunger, from starvation, from lack of water, and from social disruption. One estimate is that within a year or so, two-thirds of the United States population would die. The other estimate is that within a year or so, 90% of the U.S. population would die. We’re talking about total devastation. We’re not talking about just a regular catastrophe.[7]

It sounds fatalistic, but the truth is our power grid, which is largely centralized, is vulnerable – and thus, so are we. It’s susceptible to natural disaster: hurricanes, snowstorms, winds, rain, earthquakes and other unpredictable actions of Mother Nature can bring the grid to its knees. Outages from severe weather are becoming increasingly common[8]. Our power grid is vulnerable to even seemingly innocuous foes: the 2003 Northeast Blackout was caused when a high voltage power line was brushed by some tree branches, throwing 50 million people into darkness for two days. The disaster resulted in the loss of 11 lives. The estimated cost was $6 billion[9]. Power outages in the U.S. have been increasing for more than a decade[10]. We suffer more power outages than any other developed nation[11].The nationwide yearly cost of blackouts and brownouts is between $18 to $33 billion[12].

The power grid is not secure. Our systems are vulnerable to physical and cyber attacks. Our grid faces threats from other countries, terrorists, criminals and hackers[13]. A system so integral to every single facet of American life is a low-hanging and juicy fruit for those with nefarious intent.


Notwithstanding external threats, our energy system is not sustainable. Natural gas and coal are still the main sources of energy in the United States[14]. Our need for non-renewable, fossil-fuel-created energy is not waning anytime soon. It will remain an important part of the energy landscape for decades to come. At the same time, energy production is an immense source of greenhouse gases and pollutants. It uses up precious water resources and land, while generating waste. Something has to change, and fast.


III. The way forward is clear


The energy grid of the future is efficient, decentralized and safe. It’s clean and reliable, because that’s what heightened consumer awareness demands. It’s also affordable, because our continued economic prosperity depends on it. Here’s how we can start building the energy system of the future, today.


Efficiency

· We need to aggressively embrace alternative energy sources, like next-generation nuclear, wind and solar power.

· We must reuse and recycle fossil fuels.

· We need to electrify everything. Eliminating combustible engines in favor of electric-types creates new uses for electricity, opening the door and optimizing the grid to more sustainable power sources.

· We need to make sustainable projects yield sufficient economic returns. When sustainability is profitable, it will accelerate.


De-centralization

· We need to move away from reliance on large, centralized, top-down energy suppliers.

· We must embrace energy innovation like microgrids, self-generation and local storage.


Technology

· We need to further adopt digitization to push along the development of a smart grid.


Why businesses can no longer avoid sustainability

In the past, it was easy for businesses to ignore sustainability. It’s completely understandable. They face intense competition, high profit expectations and endless other pressures. Few resources were in place to help businesses achieve sustainability objectives. Why would something as seemingly optional as sustainability be a priority?

But commercial and industrial customers represent almost two-thirds of the U.S.’s power consumption[15]. The shift to 100% renewable energy requires major structural changes and that will be impossible without their help. Their efforts don’t have to be completely altruistic anymore. New innovations and support mean that becoming more sustainable doesn’t mean having to take financial risk. Furthermore, it could strengthen a business’s resiliency. The epicenter of protecting operations is a constant flow of electrical energy. Downtime caused by power disturbances and interruptions hurts businesses. The Department of Energy estimates power outages cost the U.S. economy about $150 billion a year[16]. Utter dependency on the grid is gambling with bottom lines. So is inefficiency. Most businesses can find significant extra cash flow after a proper energy audit and system/practice corrections.


Businesses are operating in a brand new world, one that views industry through green-tinted glasses. Relying on unsustainable and inefficient energy could place them in a situation of regulatory non-compliance, or inflict government penalties. Investors are looking at companies’ sustainability before investing, and sustainability certifications could make businesses more enticing. Bottom line, industrial and commercial customers need to address energy management to ensure their safety, resiliency, operational efficiency and regulatory compliance.


Energy CX’s vision

Private businesses are a vital part of the transition to a better energy eco-system, yet 98% of businesses do not achieve their sustainability goals[17]. We know from feedback that businesses still see sustainability as risky and inconvenient, so it’s just not on their priority list. Energy CX plans to change that paradigm. Our mission is to make sustainability profitable for millions of business owners.

We are making sustainability low risk, transparent and profitable. By making sustainable projects attractive and obtainable, we will accelerate the transition to a smart, resilient and decentralized energy system.


Here’s what we can achieve together

We believe that businesses can do their part in the modernization of our power system while meeting their business goals. All it takes is a bit of guidance. The Energy CX team has decades of industry experience and a forward-thinking mentality. Our approach provides high IRRs, streamlines operations, reduces risk and creates areas of new income. We can maximize sustainability among all business archetypes. Our offerings are customizable to suit businesses of all profiles and challenges.

We believe in renewable energy, the digitalization of facilities, decarbonization, economic returns, sensibility and reliability. We can make any business a believer, too.

We make it easy, doing the heavy listing of the implementation and maintenance of your energy solutions like:


· Energy management. Monitoring energy use provides insight on how to reduce cost and increase operational efficiency. Strategies include account monitoring, bill auditing, lighting solutions and more.


· Peak-load mitigation. Shifting power loads off the grid during peak hours generates savings.


· Solar and battery storage. Using a Tesla battery and/or solar panels drives profit.


· Power generation. Ensuring a constant supply of electricity by using a back-up power generator and supplying electricity to the grid increases profit and reliability.


· Co-generation: Generating electricity and heat with one single process saves costs.

The result? The average Energy CX customer sees 10 to 35% in savings, while reducing their environmental footprint.


IV. Conclusion

The United States can no longer ignore its aging and unsustainable power system. Businesses can no longer afford to ignore the unnecessary risk, opportunity cost and uncertainty it presents. A solution isn’t possible without widespread buy-in from the private sector. We can – and must – pursue an energy future with a business-minded approach.

That approach is now here. Sustainability innovations for businesses are finally both forward-thinking and advantageous. We are now uniquely positioned to push for a paradigm shift at a mass scale. There is nothing to lose and everything to gain. Let’s push for the shift toward a smart energy future together.


  1. [1] https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/energy/ [2] https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/history-electricity/ [3] https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/history-electricity/#Insull [4] http://sites.utexas.edu/energyinstitute/files/2016/09/UTAustin_FCe_History_2016.pdf [5] https://www.infrastructurereportcard.org/cat-item/energy/ [6] https://americanhistory.si.edu/american-enterprise-exhibition/consumer-era/energy-crisis [7] https://www.powermag.com/expect-death-if-pulse-event-hits-power-grid/ [8] https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2013/08/13/why-blackouts-are-becoming-more-common-in-two-charts/ [9] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/2003-blackout-five-years-later/ [10] https://www.energyprofessionals.com/power-outages-on-the-rise-in-the-us/ [11] https://www.dallasnews.com/business/business/2015/10/27/pew-u-s-power-outages-rising/ [12] https://www.energyprofessionals.com/power-outages-on-the-rise-in-the-us/ [13] https://www.cfr.org/report/cyberattack-us-power-grid [14] https://www.eia.gov/electricity/annual/html/epa_01_01.html [15] https://www.epa.gov/energy/about-us-electricity-system-and-its-impact-environment [16] https://www.smartgrid.gov/about_smartgridgov.html [17] https://www.bain.com/insights/achieving-breakthrough-results-in-sustainability

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