Nov 27, 2018 - Energy & Environment

Global warming could increase power costs by billions

The big new federal report on the effects of climate change released on Black Friday explores how global warming could eventually increase U.S. power costs by tens of billions of dollars annually.

Data: Hsiang et al. 2017; Map: Harry Stevens/Axios
Data: Hsiang et al. 2017; Map: Harry Stevens/Axios

Why it matters: The energy chapter of the 1,656-page report lays out a suite of ways that higher temperatures and extreme weather affect power and fuel infrastructure and availability — and the financial toll.

Threat level: On power bills specifically, even though buildings and appliances are getting more efficient, higher temperatures will generally come with higher electricity costs. Why?

  • There will be higher power demand (in part for more cooling in a hotter world), combined with higher temperatures reducing the efficiency of power generation and delivery.
  • And there's the need to build new generation capacity to meet higher demand, with billions in costs ultimately passed along to homes and businesses.

By the numbers: By 2040, nationwide residential and commercial power expenditures are projected to rise by as much as 18% if carbon dioxide keeps piling up in the atmosphere unchecked (with lower projections if emissions are cut significantly).

  • "By the end of the century, an increase in average annual energy expenditures from increased energy demand under the higher scenario is estimated at $32–$87 billion," the report states.

The big picture: Higher energy costs are one of many potential outcomes in a warming world. More broadly, the report warns of "hundreds of billions of dollars" in annual losses to some economic sectors without scaled up actions to adapt to current changes and slash emissions to avoid future warming.

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