WASHINGTON - A growing demand for electricity could be one of the primary effects of global climate change on energy use in the United States, according to a new report. The U.S. Climate Change Science Program released the report, “Effects of Climate Change on Energy Production and Use in the United States,” which is the third in a series of 21 reports on climate change and its impacts. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) coordinated the report, which concludes that a higher average temperature in the United States would decrease the need for heating and increase the need for cooling. Because electricity powers nearly all of the country’s cooling needs, this would result in an increased demand for electricity.

The report also examines energy production, noting that an increase in severe storms could impact energy production and supply, while warming trends could affect energy exploration, production, and transport in Alaska. In addition, sea-level rise could have long-term effects on power plants located along the coast. Changes in precipitation patterns could also have implications for cooling power plants. Any plant that produces steam to drive a turbine requires air or water for cooling, and the report finds that warming of the atmosphere and water in rivers could reduce the efficiencies of these power plants.

Regarding renewable power generation, the report notes that reduced snowfall in mountain areas in the West would mean reduced water supplies for hydroelectric power. However, the report could not reach a definitive conclusion about whether climate change will affect other renewable energy resources, such as solar energy, wind energy, and bioenergy.

Publication date:11/05/2007