Peak Temperatures Will Push Electric Grid to the Brink in an Ever-Warming World
The study doesn't calculate the expected effect on emissions from the additional capacity. But even if renewable sources like solar and wind power and low-carbon but controversial nuclear energy are part of the mix, the scenarios Hausman laid out are likely to mean more carbon emissions, said Marilyn Brown, who studies energy markets at the Georgia Institute of Technology.
"I'm not sure I'd want $180 billion worth of new power plants just to meet this load," Brown said. "I'd rather shrink that by managing demand as much as possible."
Improvements in efficiency and more use of renewable power could go a long way toward blunting that expected spike, Brown said. New federal standards for air conditioners went into effect in 2015. Roofs that reflect rather than absorb solar radiation and something as simple as planting more trees for shade can help keep buildings cool without relying on electricity, she said.
"There's no CO2 penalty for shade trees," Brown said.
The U.S. strategy for attacking climate change focuses heavily on increasing efficiency and promoting more renewables to meet future demand. And the U.S. Department of Energy has called for spending between $300 and $500 billion to update the grid for the 21st century. On top of that, the rapid drop in the price of solar power has piqued many consumers' interest, opening up an opportunity for many homeowners to reduce their dependence on existing utilities.
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