The other side of the climate change story

There are plenty of news stories about the impacts of climate change and how AI is going to change, well, everything.  Less common, but no less relevant, are stories about how to meet the growing energy demands for the future. 

This country’s energy suppliers are predicting significant growth in the demand for electricity in the immediate and near term to meet the needs of electric vehicles, AI and data centers.  The Wall Street Journal reported, “Projections for U.S. electricity demand growth over the next five years have doubled from a year ago.” 

For example, PJM Interconnection, which operates the grid for 13 northeastern states including West Virginia, recently doubled its prediction for demand growth over the next 15 years.  PJM warned last year, “the current pace of new entry (of power producers) would be insufficient to keep up with expected retirements (of power plants) and demand growth by 2030.”

Georgia, which is the site of dozens of new electric vehicle and battery plants, is facing an energy shortfall unless it can generate more output.  As the Atlanta Journal Constitution reported, Georgia Power plans to “add huge amounts of electricity capacity to their system — mostly powered by climate-warming fossil fuels — to meet the historic demand the utility says is on the horizon.”

These and other warnings are beginning to resonate.  Just recently, Obama administration Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, attending an energy conference in Houston, predicted, “We’re not going to build 100 gigawatts of new renewables in a few years.”  The Wall Street Journal reported that Moniz said utilities will have to fall back to coal, gas and nuclear to meet the demand. 

And there it is, exactly what PJM and other power generating entities, have been warning us about.  The demand for energy is increasing faster than the ability to meet those needs as long as the current pace of fossil fuel shutdowns continues.  

Climate advocates will respond that all this means is that the country must speed up the development and distribution of alternative fuels.  That is easier said than done.  Regulatory and supply chain issues slow progress and not every community wants solar farms or windmills in their back yard. 

The approval process for new power lines is painfully slow.  The Southwest Power Group announced plans in 2006 to build a 550-mile transmission line from a huge wind farm in New Mexico to Arizona and California. It received its final federal permit a few months ago… 17 years later.

These and other stories like them are the other side of the climate change predicament.  The path toward less carbon-based energy in favor more alternative fuels is not linear.  Factor in a geometric increase in energy demand and there is a growing acknowledgement that coal, gas and nuclear remain integral to the country’s energy portfolio. 

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