Much attention has been given to how energy affects the climate. Here we look at the reverse: the effect of climate on energy, particularly in the Metropolitan East Coast region.
In recent decades, heating degree-days have declined and cooling degree-days have risen in the metropolitan region, more so than in New York State as a whole. These trends are expected to continue. A decline in the need for heating is not an energy problem except possibly for fuel suppliers but a rise in the need for cooling is. This is particularly the case for generating electricity in summer heat waves. To project future electric peaking requirements under climate change scenarios, the model used by the New York State power industry for short-term forecasting based on weather conditions was adapted.
The principal industry response to the peaking problem is to build more power plants in the metropolitan region. A question for further research is how much this additional power under peak conditions will increase the stress on local distributions systems, contribute to global warming, affect local air pollution, and raise the temperature of the urban heat island.
The crux of the problem is electric air conditioning. Electric air conditioning is the cause of summer peak electric loads, and it increases carbon dioxide emissions. Other ways of cooling need to be promoted. The problem is not simply one for the power industry; it is the public that must reduce demand for energy.
Summarizing the key findings:
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