As the weather gets hotter, more people will be using air conditioners, fans and all kinds of electrical devices to keep cool. Researchers at the University of California – Berkeley, Stanford University, the University of Michigan and the University of British Columbia are now finding that the United States electrical grid will no longer be able to keep up with increasing demand. “As the electricity grid is built to endure maximum load, our findings have significant implications for the construction of costly peak generating capacity” a report by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says.
(US Electrical Grid graphic courtesy of FEMA)
In past estimates, the impact that consumption levels had on cost was largely ignored. The new estimate is that electricity consumption would increase by 2.8% over the course of the next century. If fossil fuel use is continued at the current rate, the peak electrical need jumps to 18%. The cost to cover this increase is staggering: “…to upgrade the US electrical grid so it could cope with peak demands may be on the order of $180 billion”. Using solar power is one possible solution that has been proposed, but hot days are not always sunny days. As American’s continue to use more electricity to keep cool, one has to marvel at the irony of this cycle that climate change has ultimately created.