The Power Grid and Climate Change

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Infrastructure vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather

BY THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF ENERGY & NATIONAL RENEWABLE ENERGY LABORATORY (NREL)

The U.S. electric grid is a large and complex system that consists of more than 9,200 electric generating units with more than 1,000 gigawatts (GW) of generating capacity connected to more than 300,000 miles of transmission lines. According to the California Energy Commission, increasing temperatures are expected to increase transmission losses, reduce current carrying capacity, increase stresses on the distribution system, and decrease substation efficiency and lifespan.

Increasing temperatures reduce transmission system efficiency and could reduce available transmission capacity. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports that approximately seven percent of power is lost in transmission and distribution, and these losses increase as temperatures increase. In addition, as temperatures increase, the current carrying capacity of electricity lines decreases.

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