Climate Change Could Ramp Up Electricity Use in China

By Roni Dengler | January 2, 2019 1:41 pm

(Credit: Sunday Stock/Shutterstock)

As the Earth heats up thanks to climate change, people are cranking up the air conditioning. Pumping in that cooled air also increases electricity use, and especially so in countries where people are just beginning to make heavy use of the electrical grid. Case in point: China, where researchers find that climate change will significantly escalate electricity consumption.

“China is now the largest economy in the world, and their electricity sector is probably the largest single place where policy changes will affect greenhouse gas emissions,” said William Pizer, an expert in public and environmental policy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, who led the new research.

Their goal, in addition to pointing out another risk of a warming globe, is to explore the ways societies will need to adapt to climate change. Beefing up electrical grids could be one of them.

Climbing Consumption

Pizer and colleagues wanted to know whether climate change impacts on electricity consumption would be similar to estimates in other countries such as the United States. Previous research from other teams showed electrical needs in the U.S. would increase by about three percent by the end of the century with peak loads rising as much as 18 percent. But few studies assessed electrical demands outside of the U.S. and Europe. Yet, China’s electrical consumption is projected to double by 2040.

In the first study of its kind for China, Pizer and colleagues obtained daily, household electricity data from the State Grid Corporation of China, the state-owned electric company. Altogether, the researchers analyzed more than 800,000 residential customers’ electrical use in the city of Shanghai from 2014 to 2016.

The team used this huge dataset to estimate how daily temperature changes influenced electricity consumption in the region. For daily temps above 77 degrees Fahrenheit, a 1.8 degree F (or 1 degree Celsius) increase translated to a 14.5 percent increase in daily household electricity consumption, the team found.

Electrical Explosion

The team then combined these consumer behavior estimates with climate models to determine how the projected global mean surface temperature might impact the area’s electrical consumption. By the end of the century, every 1.8 degree F increase in global surface temps would ramp up residential electricity use by about nine percent, the researchers reported December 24 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

More than this, peak electrical demand would explode by more than 36 percent for every 1.8 degree F increase in global mean surface temperature by 2099, Pizer and colleagues determined. The discovery holds implications for planners anticipating future demands and argues for investments in electrical grid expansion. It’s also another reminder that our responses to climate change may sometimes make the situation worse, and it’s important information for future modeling.

“This is critical to cost-benefit analysis used to support policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Pizer said.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Environment, top posts
  • Uncle Al

    Buncha crap – special interests buying “refereed” publications.

    Revert Klimate Kaos to -40 degree Jamestown, NC winters or early 1900s Hudson River freezing 3+ feet thick. The Green Revolution collapses, three billion people starve. Our whole planet will stink.

  • Nom de Plume

    Um … maybe. China’s electrical use will increase regardless, along with improved standard of living. For anyone with a focus on the environment, that is likely a good thing. In the US, electricity replaced combustion for many mundane uses, and while natural gas and propane are heavily used, wood isn’t. Decreasing combustion from fuel like wood improves air quality and encourages the growth of wooded areas, which is an environmental win.

    Of course, that moves the puff of smoke from a cooking fire to a power plant smokestack, but you have increased efficiency, with an overall reduction of pollutants.

    Something to watch for: copper and aluminum prices are probably a good rule-of-thumb indicator of grid and industrial construction in China.

  • OWilson

    “as the Earth heats up!”

    This is always presented as a given, then the political alarmist fortune tellers chime in, painting dire scenarios, of catastrophes, floods and droughts of biblical proportions, tipping points, even Great Extinctions, in our own paltry lifetimes.

    I believe most folks would be surprised (some even refute the accuracy of) the entire satellite temperature record over the last 40 years, which shows a scientific statistically insignificant warming anomaly of + 0.25 degrees, which is never publicized. (See UHA NOAA Satellite Data Record)

    The reason?

    Follow the money, and the politics. Carbon taxes, transfers of wealth from Industrial Nations to the third world, endless “studies” of so-called “settled science”, and the inconvenient fact that the world’s 4 biggest solar power companies ABENGOA, SOLYNDRA, SUN EDISON, and POWERSOLAR recently went bankrupt, and took with them some $25,000,000,000.00 in taxpayer subsidies with them, that nobody seems to question.

    Hardly a sober and scientifically rigorous study of what, if anything, this slight increase in temperature is actually doing to human prosperity and development.

    Instead we have the political imperative, we must “Act Now before it is too late!” which is remarkably like the religious doomsday old saw:

    “The End Is Nigh, Give Up Your Worldly Goods and Ye shall be Saved!

  • Mike Richardson

    If alternative energy use is not expanded, this growth in China’s electricity usage would only further accelerate climate change. It’s unfortunate that some of the comments below reflect flat denial of that reality.

    For example, you commonly see cherry-picked references to the UHA NOAA satellite data, but not the RSS interpretation of the satellite data, adjusted for satellite diurnal drift. It closely matches NOAA’s ground based temperature measurements showing approximately a 60 percent greater rate of warming per decade. These same advocates of satellite data also ignore the GRACE satellite mission which catalogued the loss of ice mass in Antarctica, or satellites confirming sea level rise.

    One should be skeptical of these climate change deniers posting on science blogs. The data they present, when it isn’t fabricated, is always taken out of context to support their own politically motivated conclusions. They offer counsel which is as harmful to the public as anti-vaxxers, and about as well-grounded in facts.

    • CB

      I don’t see any Climate Deniers in the comments! Talking over means never having to scroll down. I’ve seen their lies before. I don’t need to see them again!


    • Nom de Plume

      If you’re going to use the term “denier,” you might as well use the term “heretic.” The scientific method is based on skepticism. If we are not allowed to be skeptical of any claim, then we have moved from the realm of science to dogma.

      What trips my BS meter here isn’t the claim about climate, but knowing that China’s energy use is going to increase regardless of whether AGW is a thing or not. Thus when usage increases, it will be touted as related to AGW, and no one will bother asking if it’s a shift in fuels.

      As for alternative energy, if you don’t build sufficient storage, it’s not going to be a viable alternative. But for anyone worried about CO2 dumped into the atmosphere, nuclear power is an option. True, there are those who are against it. But that raises the question: If CO2 in the atmosphere is as big a problem as claimed, then nuclear is an obvious option. Perfect? No, but it takes care of a larger problem.

      • Mike Richardson

        “Denier” is an appropriate term for those who argue there is no significant warming, or that mankind’s contribution to the warming is negligible, despite the mountains of evidence to the contrary accumulated over several decades. You can be skeptical about the exact rate of warming or what fraction of a percent of greenhouse gases each country may be contributing, but what you’re seeing in the contrarian responses below is not skepticism. It is in fact the dogma you mention, but directed against proven scientific research.

        China’s electricity usage could indeed impact climate change, depending on what generates the electricity. An increase in coal power plants would mean an increase in CO2 emissions, further contributing to rising global temperatures. A shift away from fossil fuels to meet the demands for electricity usage would would be better for everyone.

        Storage for alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power is being developed and tested, with many possible solutions. Improved battery arrays and capacitors, thermal storage, and even kinetic energy storage with low friction flywheels are just a few possibilities. However, I’m not disagreeing with you on nuclear power, particularly from safer, next generation reactor designs with passive cooling systems. There’s still the question of what to do with the nuclear waste, but that is a political problem more than an engineering one. All options need to be considered to supply the growing energy needs of this world’s population, while at the same time reducing carbon emissions.

        • OWilson

          The term “denier” is used as a pejorative dismissive, and casually used to lump skeptics in with flat earthers, bible thumpers, and assorted conspiracy nuts who believe we never landed on the moon. Coupled with the nebulous term “climate change” it is not a scientifically defined term and is unfortunately used to describe all scientific skeptics of the dire predictions we see in the media.

          In fact there are serious accredited scientists who question the catastrophic predictions of climate models, and serious politicians who question the political global wealth transferring “solutions” put forward to “save the planet before it is too late!”

          The warming, we are told, has become more extreme since the Industrial Revolution, and threatens every aspect of humanity and civilization.

          But over these same last 200 years, all indicators are showing that, by all measures, life on Earth has drastically improved for all humanity.









          In fact, the world is setting annual records for global food production every year, with new technological techniques in food production coming on line every day, and reported here on Discover Blogs.

          Advances in the aforementioned societal measures, continue at pace.

          So, the extent to which this current warming either enhances societies, or signals their demise is a matter certainly worthy of debate. Historically, it was warming after the last, in a series of natural Ice Ages, that led to the explosion of human agriculture based civilisations some 12,000 years ago.

          Likewise, the cause of this warming, aside from natural interglacial variation, (“Co2 Is Greening The World” says Scientific American) and the actual part that humanity plays in the process is not yet scientifically well established.

          As well, the proposed political solutions, shutting down the engine of prosperity i.e. cheap and abundant natural energy sources, high taxes on same, and transferring huge amounts to the third world in climate “reparations” is also a legitimate area of enquiry.

          Since the more radical predictions made by models 20 years ago, tipping points, only 5, 10, 15 years to save the planet, have not come to pass, it is a legitimate scientific inquiry, in the finest open minded scientific tradition. to question these “conventional wisdom” predictions and assumptions.

          Anything less is political repression. And, of course, denial! :)


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