Utility companies should set sail with EV fleets

The good news is that overall electricity demand is declining in the United States, as homes and business become more energy efficient.

But that’s not such good news for utility companies, according to Forbes columnist Peter Kelly-Detwiler.

“To some extent, it has to happen if we are to successfully get out of this climate change box we have created,” Kelly-Detwiler wrote in a recent column. “It also makes us more economically competitive and frees up capital for other uses.”

If utility sales go into a free-fall, though, that’s not such a good thing, he says.

But “if the electric industry can steal from the petroleum industry by vastly increasing the number of EVs, perhaps everybody wins except for the oil exporters (whom we are generally not so fond of anyway).”

Citing reports that 93 percent of energy in the transportation industry today comes from petroleum, Kelly-Detwiler says that “electrification of the transportation fleet could benefit the economy and the environment, while offering utilities new opportunities to engage their customers.”

So why have utility fleet purchases in the last five years included fewer than 2 percent electric vehicles?

In addition to being a good customer for their own product, utilities could reap a lot of benefits from electrifying their fleets in terms of costs, safety, branding and other factors.

Best of all?

“The utilities also need to find ways to increase adoption of renewable energy sources, particularly solar power,” Kelly-Detwiler wrote. “Properly coordinated, and with intelligent and market-aware software, EVs can represent a critical storage component to the grid, facilitating the integration of more renewable energy.”