ASU Study: Climate Change Threatens Western Power Grid

By Will Stone
Published: Monday, May 18, 2015 - 8:05am
Updated: Monday, May 18, 2015 - 3:40pm
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The Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station.

The West’s power grid could be in trouble in the coming decades. The threat is climate change, according to a new study from researchers at Arizona State University.

As the West gets hotter and water is more scarce, generating electricity will become more difficult. Along with hydropower, many power plants using fossil fuels also require water, an issue in a severe drought. Hotter air temperatures can reduce the efficiency of power plants and transmission lines, only compounding the problem.

Matt Bartos is one of the ASU research scientists who authored the study published in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“Under a 10-year drought scenario, generating capacity may be 3 percent to 4 percent lower by mid-century," said Bartos. "And it’s not just generation capacity that’s going to be affected; we may see increased electricity demand.”

That's because more people will be running their air conditioners.

Bartos said the Southeast and Northwest have already encountered some of these problems during very hot times. He said the study shows the need to put in place technology now to protect out power infrastructure as climate change progresses.