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Scientists Warn of Climate Change Threats to Electricity System

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(Sacramento, CA)
Monday, April 30, 2012

One of California's longest standing sources of electricity could be compromised by climate change.  Many hydropower plants rely on snowmelt from the Sierra, says Joshua Viers (Veers) of UC Davis.  But snowpack may be reduced by as much as 50 percent by the end of the century.  

VIERS: "Most models have indicated a slight decrease in the total amount of generation, and that varies from a just few percentages in near future to perhaps up to 10 percent of our hydropower being reduced over the long-term."

At the same time, experts say warming will substantially drive up electricity consumption, as we use more air conditioning across the state.  On the hottest summer days -- of which there likely will be more-- power consumption could go up by as much as 20 percent. The challenge is further compounded because warm temperatures make power plants and transmission lines less efficient.

Scientists also raised concerns about dry weather and the increased risk of wildfires.  Several key transmission lines in the state run across areas that face a 25 to 40 percent higher risk of fire. 

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