While the raw numbers are still a bit on the small side, electric vehicle sales in the US jumped 128% from 2012 to 2014, and the US Energy Department is determined to kick that momentum into high gear. In the latest development, the agency is calling on the nation’s electric utility industry for an assist. The new partnership was just announced earlier this week by Energy Secretary Ernst Moniz at the annual convention of the Edison Electric Institute in New Orleans.
Electric Vehicle Sales And Distributed Energy Generation
Actually, it’s the electric utilities that need an assist. The rise of distributed energy generation is threatening the industry’s highly centralized model to the core (though some are adapting to the “virtual power plant” model more quickly than others), and electric vehicles are part of the problem.
That’s partly because auto manufacturers like Ford are beginning to link EV sales with distributed home solar energy and energy storage hookups. Homebuilders are also beginning to offer distributed solar as a complement to EV ownership.
Small-scale wind-powered EV charging could also become a factor, if the Energy Department’s micro wind turbine initiatives take off.
If you think of an EV as a powerful energy storage unit on wheels, you can also see how the rise in EV sales is helping to push the distributed model along. The vehicle battery can fill in when not enough solar (or wind) is available on site, and it can also ferry distributed energy from one site to another.
The New Energy Department/Utility Partnership
As noted above, the raw numbers for EV sales are still low, and the Obama Administration aims to pump those numbers up with a full-court press.
The partnership brings utilities directly into the Energy Department’s EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, which has the goal of making EV ownership just as convenient and affordable as gasmobiles, all by 2022.
For starters, the new partnership aims to help utilities access R&D resources at the Energy Department’s Grid Modernization Laboratory Consortium, which just launched last year. The Consortium’s focus on renewable and distributed energy makes it pretty clear that “modernization” is a kind word for adapt or die:
…dramatic changes are occurring in our nation’s energy mix, many of which demand a more technologically advanced electric grid. Increasing use of renewable energy sources, risks of cyber and physical attacks, and aging infrastructure create uncertainty of the current grid’s long-term ability to provide the services demanded of it. These include distributing and storing clean energy, enabling greater consumer choice and increasing efficiency while being secure and resilient against climate change, natural disasters or attack.
The new partnership also builds on EEI’s new Employee PEV [Plug-in EV] Engagement Initiative, which also anticipates and encourages an increase in electric vehicle sales.
So, What Does This Have To Do With Veterans?
The announcement of the new partnership was just one of several new programs launched by the Energy Department on June 8.
Another one that caught our eye was the new Utility Industry Workforce Initiative, which is designed to recruit and train military veterans and their family members for high-skilled jobs in the utility industry.
The training is all geared to building up a workforce for the modern grid of the future, which the Energy Department estimates will require 1.5 million more workers by 2030.
Part of the reason why the Energy Department is focusing on veterans to fill that gap is the adaptability of military experience to utility work, as amply demonstrated by the US wind industry.
The numbers also make this talent pool an especially large target for recruitment:
…At a time when 200,000 veterans are leaving the military annually, recruiting and training for energy jobs can reduce the skills gap in a critical set of industries.
The other part of the attraction, as we see it, is that the Defense Department is all over cleantech like white on rice. Military veterans are already experiencing smart microgrids and other aspects of grid modernization, as well as distributed energy and electric vehicles, while on active duty. They are already becoming “green ambassadors” to the civilian sector, and their hands-on familiarity gives them a leg up on the job training process.
Not for nothing, but offering discounts to veterans is standard practice for the auto industry (Chevrolet is a good example). As the Defense Department’s thirst for EVs grows, we’re guessing that it won’t be long before the auto industry begins to focus its EV sales marketing on veterans as well.
Photo Credit: Chevy Bolt by Tina Casey.