At the 2023 Edison Electric Institute Conference Elon Musk said, “I can’t emphasize enough, we need more electricity. However much it is you think we need, it’s more than that, I assure you, and we need it as fast as possible.”
He implored our electric utilities to up their projections for what grid demand will look like in a fully electrified net-zero economy. California, for example, plans to reach net-zero emissions by 2045. The California air Resources Board’s projects electricity demand will increase 68% over 2022 levels as the state rapidly deploys these clean technologies across various sectors.
Musk, however, believes these projections are too low. He said, “I think basically there will be much more load than that, by like a lot. It is going to be three times the current load, and three times number happens around 2045. The one thing about exponential growth is it really is counterintuitive and underestimated.”
Other industry leaders also shared Musk’s viewpoint on the dramatic need for electricity in the near-term future. A common thread among the utilities represented was that the demand for electricity is going to triple in the near term and that requires our grid to grow correspondingly, to meet these needs.
Bill Gates said he believed that a fully green grid in the US will have a load that is around two and a half times the size of today’s capacity, which was about 1.2 million MW in 2022, according to the American Public Power Association.
Gil Quiniones, CEO of the Illinois power utility ComEd, said that his company’s estimations are similar.
Tesla, one of Musk’s companies, is one of the drivers behind this rapid load growth, both in California and beyond. Tesla recently began manufacturing vehicles at its new gigafactory in Austin, Texas. During the conference, electric utility executives toured the Austin facility. One member of the tour was Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope. She was amazed at the production rate of EV’s even before the factory’s completion. She indicated that that kind of pace will challenge the culture of all our electrical utilities.
Tesla continues to record rapid sales growth, having delivered around 420,000 vehicles in the first quarter of 2023, a 36% increase over Q1 2022, according to Tesla’s latest shareholder presentation.
As you well know, electric vehicles will be one of the smaller demand sectors in the clean energy grid’s future, but it is an early sign of how fast the electric generation sector needs to grow. But, with current regulations and other issues limiting the addition of new generation I fear our electric grid will not be able to keep up.
“As we move forward, the ability to execute fast enough is going to test all of us,” Portland General Electric CEO Maria Pope said. “And we’re going to have to come together with agility around that uncertainty.”