Climate-Related Blackouts Could Have California Seeing Red

By Staff December 1, 2005

Californians are expected to see more frequent and intense heat waves over the next century, researchers are saying, and that could lead to an overburdened electricity grid and rolling blackouts.

Scientists at the U.S. Dept. of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studied several greenhouse-gas emission scenarios developed by the United Nations-formed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change . These scenarios were matched to current heat-wave trends, and researchers determined that heat waves will be starting earlier each summer , and will be longer and more frequent than they are now. Resulting increased air-conditioning use could strain the state’s electricity supply.

In fact, researchers estimate future electricity demand due to extreme summer temperatures will reach 65,000 MW by 2010 , up from approximately 55,000 MW in summer 2004. A population boom in California’s steamy Central Valley is helping to push this anticipated rise in demand. The scientists state that widespread and prolonged heat extremes in the interconnected western U.S. could force California’s energy reserves down to a level requiring rolling blackouts to maintain the integrity of the system.