Thursday, August 7, 2008

California energy supply vulnerable to heat waves

Environment News Service: In the near future, large California cities can expect more frequent heat waves because of climate change, warn scientists at universities in California and Texas. This could mean increased electricity demand to run air conditioners in the densely populated state, raising the risk of power shortages during heat waves, said Norman Miller, an earth scientist at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and geography professor at the University of California, Berkeley, and Katharine Hayhoe, a climate researcher at Texas Tech University.

If the electricity to run those air conditioners is generated using fossil fuels, this also could mean even more emissions of the heat-trapping gas carbon dioxide that causes climate change. "Electricity demand for industrial and home cooling increases near linearly with temperature," said lead author Miller, a climate scientist and a principal investigator with the Energy Biosciences Institute in Berkeley.

"In the future," he said, "widespread climate warming across the western U.S. could further strain the electricity grid, making brownouts or even rolling blackouts more frequent." When projected future changes in extreme heat and observed relationships between high temperature and electricity demand for California were mapped onto current availability of electricity, the researchers discovered a potential for electricity deficits as high as 17 percent during peak electricity demand periods….

The Mesquite Sand Dunes at the northern end of Death Valley, California, in a beautiful shot by Jim Gordon from Biloxi, Mississippi, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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