Climate Change May Affect Power Supply Through Air Conditioning Demands

The extreme effects of climate change that the world would experience if temperatures were to increase by 1.5° Celsius over pre-industrial levels are often discussed. The most substantial ones out of these easily get the crowd’s attention, often leading to the assumption that we are set to witness a dramatic climax. We often forget that climate change and increasing global temperatures are set to have small but significant effects on our daily lives.

Air conditioning demands are bound to increase as the temperatures soar. Photo by Gije Cho on

With an increase in temperatures worldwide, the demand for cooling methods, such as air conditioning, is also bound to increase. This, in turn, can affect the demand and supply of power. Using machine learning, a team of researchers attempted to project the demand for household air-conditioning in the USA, in the event of temperatures passing the 1.5° C or 2°C mark. They found that the USA may be expecting an 8% increase in the demand for air conditioning if the global temperatures pass the 1.5°C mark, and up to 13% if the temperatures continue to rise to over 2°C. This increasing demand for air conditioning alone could increase the risk of blackout in most USA states if the power grid capacity is not increased.

“We tried to isolate just the impact of climate change. If nothing changes, if we, as a society, refuse to adapt, if we don’t match the efficiency demands, what would that mean?” said Renee Obringer, lead author of the study.

Here are some of the key observations of the study:

  • If the temperatures rise by 1.5°C (2.7°F) in business-as-usual scenarios, the demand for household air conditioning in the USA should go up by 8% in summer months. If the temperatures rise by 2°C (3.6°F), the demand is expected to go up by 13%. According to the 2021 IPCC report, the temperatures may reach the 1.5°C by early 2030s, and the 2°C mark should be crossed before the end of the century if significant and urgent measures to mitigate this are not implemented.
  • The highest air conditioner use across the USA is expected during heat waves, which would present the highest risk of power grid overload.
  • Technological improvements to increase the efficiency of air conditioners by 1%-8% may help achieve the demand for cooling in global temperature rise scenarios, without affecting electricity demands.
  • Without measures to mitigate or cope with these effects of clim
  • ate change, there may be a rise in the need for blackouts, especially during heat waves.
  • The largest increases in kilowatt-hours electricity demands due to air conditioning is expected from South and Southwest regions. Arizona alone could add 54.5 million kilowatt-hours per month to the power supply load.
  • The highest percentage increases over current demand is expected to be seen in Midwestern states.

Furthermore, the study points out that the impact of rising temperatures, increasing air conditioning demands, and possible power grid failures will impact the population unevenly. Older citizens, non-whites, and low-income people are bound to experience the ill effects of the situation first.

“When they say there’s going to be two weeks where you don’t have cooling on average—in reality, some people will have cooling. Disadvantaged people will have less cooling,” said Susanne Benz, a geographer and climate scientist at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. Benz was not involved with this study. “It’s a pretty clear warning to all of us that we can’t keep doing what we are doing or our energy system will break down in the next few decades, simply because of the summertime air conditioning,” she added.

The results of the study have been published in Earth’s Future.


Terra Love View All →

I am a simple writer who wishes to use her skill to create more awareness about the planet that offers us life.

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