Utility Dive Quotes Seth Hilton and Brian Nese on Electric Utility Outlook on Future of Natural Gas and Energy Demand from Growing EV Use

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Energy development attorneys Seth Hilton and Brian Nese were quoted in Utility Dive in an article titled “State of the Electric Utility 2021: Gas doubts rise, DER focus wanes, and 5 other key takeaways,” published April 1, 2021. The article provides insights from Utility Dive’s recently released 8th annual State of the Electric Utility (SEU) Survey Report — which tallies responses from electric utility executives and professionals to examine trends in the power sector.

As in Utility Dive’s 2020 SEU report, solar generation ranked #1 in respondents’ expectations as to the growth in its use in the next 10 years. And though the change in expectations of respondents between 2020 and 2021 grew only slightly for growth in the use of renewables, storage and distributed energy resources, their estimations for the change in natural gas use saw a big jump, with the percent of respondents expecting a decrease over the next 10 years changing from 17% to 30%.

Despite any decrease in the use of natural gas, Nese doesn’t expect it to be entirely discontinued as a fuel anytime soon. “It seems like the bridge keeps getting extended a little bit, to the extent that gas is a bridge fuel from dirty to clean [energy],” he said. “There’s this period ... where we’re right now getting the reliability right. And gas is definitely front and center in that conversation.”

Respondents to the question of where utilities saw their biggest increase in demand selected COVID-19 as the main driver. Though many analysts expect a significant increase in the next 10 years in the number of electric vehicles in use in the U.S., “Increased electrification of transportation, buildings and other sectors” ranked only fourth in the survey, which didn’t surprise Hilton.

“The California Energy Commission has done some studies on the expected load that might come from the increased use of electric vehicles,” he said. “It’s significant but not overwhelming. So I think it’s manageable in the course of the transition to electric vehicles.”

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