Beneficial electrification, what in the world is that?

June 29, 2020                                                                                                                                                     Home

At this year’s conference of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, one of the big topics was “beneficial electrification”. So, what is that all about?

It’s not as complicated as it sounds.  The basic reason for electricity suppliers to exist is to provide electricity.  Rural electric cooperatives, like Powell Valley Electric (PVEC), have been providing electricity to its member-owners for 80 years.

Beneficial electrification involves finding ways for cooperatives to increase electricity usage in their own operations – as well as to member-owners.  This would include using electric vehicles for staff and electric forklifts. In the community at large, this might mean using electricity-powered vans and electric school buses.

There are three elements:

      • is it economically beneficial to use electric power rather than fossil fuel?
      • is it beneficial to the electric grid (increasing efficiency and peak demand)?
      • is it beneficial to the environment?                                                                                                              

Consider the forklift.  They are available powered by gas, diesel, propane, or electricity.  Most of the following information comes from  which sells all types of forklifts.

A standard 5,000-pound capacity electric forklift costs $20,000 to $30,000.  A standard 5,000-pound capacity gas forklift costs anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000. Prices vary based on the brand and capacity.  As with an electric  car, the upfront purchase cost is higher, though this initial cost is trending downward with advancing technology.                 

However, electric forklifts require no fuel, have fewer moving parts, and need very little maintenance. They can easily be recharged overnight.  The batteries are rechargeable and replaceable.  Electric forklifts typically last longer before major components start to fail. In some cases, the lifespan of an electric forklift is nearly double.  And, electric forklifts do not produce harmful emissions or noise.  These are health benefits for those driving forklifts and working in the area.   

And, here is a key point.  Electric cooperatives (and other electric suppliers)  are in the business of buying and selling electricity – not in the business of gas, natural gas, and propane.  Sometimes electric cooperative staff grumble about energy efficiency (such as LED lighting) cutting back on demand and hurting the business bottom line.  This is an opportunity to increase electrical usage, lower costs of equipment, and improve our environment. 

Electric school busses?  Yes, indeed.  More on that in the next article.

Everyone needs to learn more about our electric cooperative. For more information, go to

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