Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Climate Change Is the Real Threat to Electric Grid Reliability in the Southwest
Press Release

RELEASE: Climate Change Is the Real Threat to Electric Grid Reliability in the Southwest

Washington, D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s, or EPA’s, Clean Power Plan is one of the most important steps the United States has ever taken to combat the threat of climate change. However, many of the plan’s opponents wrongly claim that it will diminish reliability of the electric grid. These critics’ proposition ignores the greatest threat to the grid there is: climate change.

In a column released today, the Center for American Progress looks at the effects of climate change on grid reliability in the Southwest United States. Extreme weather events—such as droughts, heat waves, and wildfires—have increased in the Southwest over the past few decades. These events pose the greatest risk to the electric grid in the region.

“The American Southwest is known for its hot, dry land and the potential for wildfires. However, over the past few decades, this region has seen more frequent and destructive droughts, wildfires, and heat waves—which have put significant stress on the electric infrastructure,” said Myriam Alexander-Kearns, CAP Research Associate and author of the column. “The effects of these extreme weather events are far and away the greatest threat to grid reliability. The Clean Power Plan aims to reduce carbon emissions from the power sector, mitigating these threats and thus improving grid reliability.”

Droughts and wildfires can cause physical damage to electric infrastructure, and heat waves increase electricity demand for cooling during peak hours. Extreme weather events in the past few years have shown that when demand increases too much and too quickly—as can be the case during a heat wave—transformers burn out, power lines fail, and electricity costs rise. For vulnerable populations such as the elderly, the very young, and those with asthma or other respiratory conditions, these events can be very dangerous.

Click here to read the column.

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, contact Tom Caiazza at [email protected] or 202.481.7141.