Climate change could lead to blackouts in Los Angeles

Extreme heat adds stress to the electricity grid.

Large storms are not the only cause of power outages. In the Los Angeles area, rising temperatures could lead to more frequent blackouts.

Stephanie Pincetl of the UCLA Institute of the Environment and Sustainability co-authored a recent report about how extreme heat will affect the grid in LA County.

Pincetl: “The efficiency of the transmission lines declines, and also the plants – like natural gas – are affected, even solar arrays are affected by high heat.”

She says supply issues are compounded by the high demand for air conditioning during heat waves. And that demand is increasing as LA’s population grows and the city sprawls into the desert, where it’s even hotter.

According to the report, these combined factors could cause major power outages within about forty years.

Pincetl says there’s no quick fix to the problem – and that addressing it requires a comprehensive approach that includes efficiency, technology, and land-use planning. That could mean mandating more efficient air conditioning units, improving energy storage, and building more densely to avoid urban sprawl.

Pincetl: “It’s a very, very fundamental structural set of changes that need to occur.”

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