Financial Sense | August 24 2012 | Thanks, Thomas
Electricity enables our modern life style – the degree of dependency we have built into our lives in regards to “power on demand” has raised expectations that plentiful electricity will be available to us 24/7.
“Electrical power, in the short span of two centuries, has become an indispensible part of modern day life. Our work, leisure, healthcare, economy, and livelihood depend on a constant supply of electrical power. Even a temporary stoppage of power can lead to relative chaos, monetary setbacks, and possible loss of life. Our cities live on electricity and without the customary supply from the power grid, pandemonium would break loose.” Dieselserviceandsupply.com
According to a 2008 Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory study the most reliable state electrical power supply in the US is interrupted only 92 minutes a year, the worst is 214 minutes – these figures don’t include power outages blamed on natural disasters.
Outages due to aging wires, pole transformers and other 1960s and 1970s infrastructure pose the greatest threat. Since 1990 US power demand has risen 25 percent, yet spending on related infrastructure has climbed only seven percent.
The United States has the world’s most advanced economy, is the world’s largest electricity consumer and rarely has sustained electricity shortages covering large areas.
Unfortunately that might soon not be the case – the United States is suffering through an extended heat wave and when combined with the worst drought since 1956 energy production across most of the nation is threatened.
Power plants are completely dependent on water for cooling, they are overheating and utilities are shutting them down or running their plants at lower capacity.
If the water levels in the rivers they use for cooling drop too low, the power plant – already overworked from the heat – won’t be able to draw in enough water and if the cooling water discharged from the plant raises already high river water temperatures above safe environmental limits a plant will be forced to shut down.
The lack of rain, and the incessant heat, has also increased the need for irrigation water for farming, meaning increasing competition between the agricultural and power generation sectors for the same water.
Burning Our Rivers: The Water Footprint of Electricity by River Network reports…
“For every gallon of residential water used in an average household, five times more is used to provide that home with electricity via hydropower turbines and fossil fuel power plants (40,000 gallons each month).
Electricity production by coal, nuclear and natural gas power plants is the fastest-growing use of freshwater in the U.S., accounting for more than about ½ of all fresh, surface water withdrawals from rivers and lakes. This is more than any other economic sector, including agriculture.”