US West's power grid must be prepared for impacts of climate change

Power Grid
Credit: Argonne National Laboratory

Electricity generation and distribution infrastructure in the Western United States must be "climate-proofed" to diminish the risk of future power shortages, according to research by two Arizona State University engineers.

Expected increases in extreme heat and drought events will bring changes in precipitation, air and water temperatures, air density and humidity, write Matthew Bartos and Mikhail Chester in the current issue of the research journal Nature Climate Change.

The authors say the changing conditions could significantly constrain the energy generation capacity of plants - unless steps are taken to upgrade systems and technologies to withstand the impacts of a generally hotter and drier climate.

Bartos is a research scientist and Chester is an assistant professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Chester also has an appointment in the School of Sustainability in ASU's Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

In their article "Impacts of climate change on electric power supply in the Western United States," they report that power stations are particularly vulnerable to adverse climatic conditions predicted to occur within the next half-century.

"In their development plans, power providers are not taking into account ," Bartos said. "They are likely overestimating their ability to meet future electricity needs."

The West is expected to see greater energy demand due to population growth and higher temperatures. Bartos and Chester say must strengthen transmission capacity and enact conservation strategies if they are to remain capable of reliably supplying power to the region as conditions change.

Power providers also should invest in more resilient and consider local climatic constraints when selecting sites for new generation facilities, the authors said.

"Diverse arrays of energy-generation technologies are used by the West's power grid. We are looking at five technologies, hydroelectric, steam, wind and combustion turbines, and photovoltiacs," Chester said.

"We're finding that some power generation technologies can be more climate-resilient than others. Renewable energy sources are generally less susceptible to impacts. So more use of renewable sources may contribute to a better climate-proofed power infrastructure," he said.

Explore further

Project aims to strengthen water, power systems in Southwest

More information: Nature Climate Change,
Journal information: Nature Climate Change

Citation: US West's power grid must be prepared for impacts of climate change (2015, May 18) retrieved 21 May 2019 from
This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only.

Feedback to editors

User comments

May 18, 2015
Once again, we need the diversification of multiple and different sources for power, each with its own set of advantages such as reliability, dispatchability and costs. It is the best way to intelligently manage a large area with diverse needs.

May 18, 2015
We must keep using fossil fuels since we haven't had any meaningful smog in well over a decade. We have defeated the smoggy 70's when a river caught fire in Ohio. Be happy (Alerts, Advisories, Watches and Be Kind to Air Days are only predictions and measurements of conditions not smog.) Life is good.
We are living longer now than that at any time in Human history and "progressive" technology has given us unlimited amounts of fossil fuels to continue to use wisely. Wasn't oil independence important to world peace? Wanting science to have been certain was not "progressive" let alone civilized.
If you remaining "believers" cannot prove science "believes" as much as you do and beyond science's "unbelievable"; 97% certainty then expect another 34 years of global denial and climate action failure.

May 18, 2015
When with the utility, our grid was the WSCC, for the Western States Coordinating Council. In the early morning, the producers and users would get together on the phone to buy and sell megawatt-hours at certain times. It covered, and probably still does, many Western states, a province of Canada, and one or two states in Mexico.

Our grid was diverse, and spanned many climate zones, so power could be moved around from producing areas to importing ones.

May 18, 2015
'climate change' seems more a convenient myth that is serving more to meet the renewable industry's interests.

May 18, 2015
Willie, the Department of Defense is darn serious about it. Perhaps you had better get that way too.

May 18, 2015
Willie tard's gorilla oil masters likes to pollute our oceans and fill our clean air with filthy pollutants relentlesly, we need to switch to renewables, no matter what, the earth needs to be saved !

May 18, 2015
I see we have a new monkey in our midst or just another gorilla sockpuppet in the mist ?.... welcome mememonkey, here have a 1 out of 5 as a bonus for starting out, the bannanas comes later, first you have to prove that you really are as dumb as the rest of your fellow sockpuppets... ;) (and by the looks of it ain't going to be that hard for you.. yes... ;) )

May 18, 2015
Willie tard's gorilla oil masters likes to pollute our oceans and fill our clean air with filthy pollutants relentlesly, we need to switch to renewables, no matter what, the earth needs to be saved !
When an oiled seabird appears, the environmentalists make sonorous scandals promoting enormous public commotions, but where are all the defenders of endangered wildlife when wind farms, supposedly "eco-friendly" energy source, are slaughtering millions birds and bats? And solar power arrays are vaporizing birds in mid-flight? Why aren't they out there protesting beneath huge wind farms to shut down these bird killers?
How much longer are we going to have two sets of standards and such environmental hypocrisy?

May 19, 2015
Increased transmission capabilities? This study must have been funded by the industry, then. Because in the West, the more obvious solution to dams running out of water is local solar power generation. Which takes *less* transmission capability. But the industry doesn't want to pay homeowners to dump power into the grid. So they keep looking for ways to fend off solar in state legislatures and ramp up their transmission capabilities. And the study authors appear perfectly willing to oblige them.

May 19, 2015
renewables can advance, filthy oil will always pollute

we already getting to at a solution:

May 19, 2015
Renewable energy sources are generally less susceptible to climate change impacts

These brainless AGW Chicken Littles will fall for every foolish lie.

May 19, 2015
We must keep using fossil fuels

Wow. The inherent contradiction in these six words doesn't stare you in the face?
(Hint: Look at the words "keep using" and "fossil" ....think about it for a second. Or in your case take a couple of hours. Maybe peruse a dictionary. )

May 20, 2015
Antisciencegorilla trying hard to understand science but keeps coming up with 2 brancelled replies, always believing himself as he thinks he could possibly one day graduate from mental school... :D

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more