EEI Highlights the Critical Need For Partnerships

WeaveGrid's Dave Bend, VP of Business Development and Client Growth, reflects on EEI 2023.
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June 21, 2023

WeaveGrid's Dave Bend, VP of Business Development and Client Growth, reflects on EEI 2023.

Edison Electric Institute (EEI) 2023 was an incredible event. It'd be hard to say there could be a more fitting sendoff for EEI's President and CEO, Tom Kuhn, with an all-star lineup of speakers and a range of topics highlighting the electric utility industry's leadership on the most critical issues.

My biggest takeaway: Partnerships and collaboration will be critical to enabling our societal goals around decarbonization, resiliency, and affordability.

Getting ready for Austin, I felt like I was heading to the Oscars for the electric utility industry. I boarded my flight to Texas for 100-degree temps, tacos and barbeque, and a long list of friends to catch up with. 

Some memorable moments:

WeaveGrid CEO Apoorv Bhargava connects with Bill Gates in the Tech Hub
  • Bill Gates and the need for catalysts. It was insightful to hear Bill Gates speak about Breakthrough Energy's approach to electrification and their commitment to reducing global emissions by more than 1%. Breakthrough's portfolio is expansive and includes companies working on decarbonizing manufacturing, agriculture, buildings, as well as transportation and electricity – that's where WeaveGrid comes in. Bill Gates reminded us all that while "Massive electrification is daunting, [...] you can see that there is a path—a path that doesn't involve saying customers have to pay a lot more for electricity." Our take is similar. Electrification creates an exciting opportunity to innovate and improve the customer experience for energy consumers without raising costs. 
  • Tesla's vision for an electric future. Elon Musk rarely sits down for a 45-minute interview on the state of the energy industry, and his discussion with Edison International's Pedro Pizarro was incredibly insightful. Elon Musk forecasted 3x electric load growth from EVs, noting that "Electric vehicles are growing exponentially. The larger point is that the need for electricity is going to be extremely high [...] Everything is going to be electric. [...] We're trying to work to a sustainable energy future, and it's going to take many technology solutions to get there." 
  • The importance of getting the driver experience right. I can't do a writeup without calling out my boss, WeaveGrid's CEO and co-founder Apoorv Bhargava, who spoke on the stage about the electrification of transportation. His discussion with EEI's Kellen Schefter about improving the customer experience for EV drivers while supporting utilities in capturing the value of EV’s load flexibility reminded me why I came to work at WeaveGrid. It was also exciting to work alongside him and talk to our partners and new contacts about our work at WeaveGrid to enable mass adoption of EVs by intelligently integrating them with the grid.

And consistent themes:

  • Resiliency. With climate change already occurring, the risks to operating a reliable grid only increase. I appreciated Maria Pope's overview of the work she and her team at Portland General Electric are doing on wildfire mitigation. Last week, wildfire smoke on the east coast was a reminder of how much infrastructure and electric service is at risk. EEI highlighted how critical new resilience investments and initiatives will be. 
  • Affordability. Electrification needs to focus on the needs of every customer and every community. AEP's President and CEO Julie Sloat said it best "energy is for everyone, and everyone has to be able to afford it." There's no doubt that electrification provides a massive opportunity for utilities to serve an emerging customer segment, the EV driver. EEI member utilities are committed to keeping rates affordable and finding equitable solutions for preparing the grid for the load growth created by EVs. 
  • Force Multipliers. Another tidbit from the programming that stuck with me was a point made by ComEd's Erica Borggren on a panel with Brian Wolff from EEI and Dan Hahn at Guidehouse. "A force multiplier is anything that helps someone do more with less. ComEd does that with $425 million in energy efficiency programming. We try to take a funnel approach to deliver programs across all customer segments." I believe that the utilities deploying strategic planning and optimization technologies supported by companies like WeaveGrid can be a similar force multiplier, taking this massive opportunity and addressing the challenges of transportation electrification while making things simple for EV-driving customers. 

Overall, it was an incredible event that EEI hosted! We at WeaveGrid are looking forward to helping our utility and automotive and charging company partners build a better EV driver experience while making sure the grid stays resilient, electricity continues to get cleaner, and the cost of EVs and electricity rates remain affordable.

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