It’s no secret that the climate is changing. In various parts of the world, we’re now seeing new types of weather; whether its higher temperatures, less frequent occurrences of winter weather, and dynamic shifts that foreshadow a worsening of global temperatures. For so many, questions abound on how this will impact our personal lives, businesses at large, and other crucial components of society and our economy. However, one of the lesser questioned parts of climate change and extreme weather is its impact on energy consumption.
Does climate change have an impact on extreme weather and energy consumption?
Many times, there is an open question as to whether climate change has an impact on creating extreme weather which, in turn, creates a higher demand for energy consumption. Changing needs have created changing consumer habits. Extreme weather events for some areas may not even be something as dramatic as a hurricane, earthquake, or tornado. They can be as predictable as a heat wave or cold snap meaning more energy will be required for a longer amount of time.
What are some examples of the impact extreme weather can have on energy consumption?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there are very real costs to extreme weather events such as a warmer climate. The agency cites data which indicates that a 6 to 9 degree rise in summer temperatures could increase the need for energy output and production by 10 – 20% by 2050. For some, this may not sound like much but it represents hundreds of billions of dollars in investment in infrastructure and output mechanisms. Additionally, some of our existing structures may be rendered less efficient due to the need for cooling water to efficiently run most of these power plants. With warmer water, plants will have to work harder to produce the same amount of power at less efficiency.
What other indirect impact could occur as a result of energy consumption?
One of the unheralded issues that could arise is the competition for natural resources that occurs when there are impacts as a result of relatively extreme weather. For example, power plants sometimes require large amounts of water to ensure they operate within safe, not even efficient, parameters. As water is a necessary and desired resource, power companies will be in competition with local governments and reservoirs to be the first to use the diminishing supply of water available to keep pace with traditional demand. Additionally, given the rising temperatures, power companies will not only have to keep pace with traditional demand, they will have to somehow compensate for increased demand to cope with the rising heat.
Are there any other vulnerabilities that could impact energy consumption or availability?
Given the amount and severity of hurricanes, it is entirely possible that oil-producing platforms which may have been previously considered safe will now be in the path of terrible storms. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita damaged hundreds of platforms which had negative impacts on oil distribution and availability, for example, hurting not just local energy concerns but impacting global supply as well. For many, it may well be time to take some stock on distribution channels and construction suitability for extreme weather events.
Will an extreme weather event impact energy consumption soon?
Although there is no way to know when or how an extreme weather event can or will impact energy consumption, it is likely that we will again see energy consumption impacted by extreme weather in the years to come.