Extreme drought could cost California half its hydroelectric power this summer

Drought is predicted to halve California’s hydroelectric power supply this summer. That’s bad news for residents’ air quality and energy bills, the U.S. Energy and Information Administration (EIA) said in its statement. prediction† The state will likely rely on more expensive, polluting natural gas to make up for the hydropower shortage.

Nearly 60 percent of California is currently experiencing “extreme” drought or worse, according to the National… drought monitor card† California’s current water problems stem from a low snow cover, which extinguishes the state’s reservoirs when it melts. In early April, when snowfall usually peaked, the state’s snowpack water content was 40 percent below normal levels for the past 30 years.

A map of California from the US Drought Monitor showing how much of the state is experiencing varying levels of drought.

A map of California from the US Drought Monitor† The burgundy color means “exceptional” dryness. Red symbolizes “extreme” drought and dark orange is “severe” drought. The map shows data from May 24, 2022.
Image: Richard Heim, NOAA/NCE

Two of California’s major water reservoirs, Shasta Lake and Lake Oroville, were already “critically low” by the beginning of May† We haven’t even reached summer yet, when the weather can get even more hot and dry and the demand for air conditioning puts an extra strain on the electricity grid.

Hydropower is an important energy source in the US. According to the EIA, it typically makes up about 15 percent of California’s electricity production during “normal water conditions,” according to the EIA. But that is expected to drop to just 8 percent this summer, the EIA says.

Sometimes California can buy hydropower from other states in the Pacific Northwest. But Washington state and Oregon are also dealing with droughts, so gas may need to fill in the gaps. As a result, the EIA says electricity prices in the western US are likely to be 5 percent higher in the coming months. In California, the drought causes a 6 percent increase in carbon dioxide emissions in the energy sector.

California is no stranger to drought, but this year has turned historically bad. The first months of 2022 were the driest in over 100 years† Governor Gavin Newsom has asked Californians to volunteer change their habits — including five minutes of showering instead of bathing and sweeping instead of spraying outdoor areas while cleaning — in an effort to reduce the state’s water consumption. In some places, local governments require water stops. From todaymany residents of the Los Angeles area will only water their lawns once a week.

As climate change poses a future of worsening droughts, it could become difficult for the US to rely on hydropower as a clean energy source to achieve its climate goals. The nation relied on hydropower for: almost a third of its renewable electricity by 2021. The Biden administration has a goal to run the U.S. electrical grid entirely on carbon-free energy by 2035.

SOURCE – www.theverge.com

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