Why warmer water will drive up poor people's electric bills

Why warmer water will drive up poor people's electric bills

From nuclear to coal, power plants turn their turbines by heating and cooling water. When water starts out warm, this gets less efficient. Photo: <a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/bagalute/5127578547/in/photostream/">Bjoern Schwartz (Flickr)</a>
From nuclear to coal, power plants turn their turbines by heating and cooling water. When water starts out warm, this gets less efficient. Photo: Bjoern Schwartz (Flickr)

Impacts of energy use on climate change are widely discussed, but what about the other way around? According to a New York Times Green blog post, we should also be concerned with how climate change will impact power output.

Almost all power plants use water in the power generation process. And as water sources such as lakes and rivers get warmer, it will become harder and more expensive to generate power. And the problems don’t end there: warmer climates drive up transmission losses, air conditioning and refrigeration, all of which further drive up energy costs.

“In addition to making electricity harder to generate, warm weather would make peaks in electricity demand even higher. That would raise costs.”

A new study published in the journal Nature Climate Change projects that power generation in the US could fall by up to 16 percent by 2060 due to a lack of adequate cooling water, according to Climate Progress.

If that’s what climate change means for power in the energy-rich US, the effects in parts of the world where many people are stuck in poverty because of a lack of electricity are likely to be even more profound.

And if a warming world means less power, it’s another way that the rising mercury will keep people poor.

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