Clean Energy Means More Electricity, Can US Cities Meet the Demand?

Image: Diliff via Wikimedia Commons

By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

Cities across the US are transitioning their buildings to clean energy, which would mean banning natural gas in new construction and promoting electric appliances. But the question remains whether or not infrastructure — foundational and historic — is ready to handle such a demand for electricity. 

 

Why this Matters: Research has shown that the fastest and most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions is to swap out fossil fuels for clean energy. President Biden is fighting to pass unprecedented climate policies to shift the country to cleaner energy. To successfully decarbonize everything from cars to homes and meet the ever-increasing electricity demand, cities will have to update their often decades-old electrical infrastructure — projects that could cost billions of dollars

 

“It’s a perfect violent storm as far as meeting the demand that we’re going to have,” Michael Johnston, executive director of codes and standards for the National Electrical Contractors Association, told the Times. “It’s no small problem.”

 

Rising Demand

San Jose, California, is the largest local government in the country to ban natural gas in new buildings and epitomizes the struggle that many cities may face in transitioning to electric power. According to Rewiring America, if every household in San Jose switched from gas-powered cars and appliances to electric ones, the city would triple its electricity needs.

 

And it’s not just switching to EVs and electric stoves that are fueling heightened energy demands. Increasing climate change impacts like hurricanes, erratic winter weather, heatwaves, and more are also driving residents to use more electricity and crank up the heat or AC. In Texas, high power demand on an independent grid paired with an overreliance on natural gas, left 70% of residents on the state’s primary power grid without electricity during a winter storm earlier this year. In the West, increasing heatwaves are also increasing the risk and occurrence of blackouts.

 

San Jose’s mayor, Sam Liccardo, says that his city is making moves to achieve its emissions goals, “the question is whether there will be a grid-ready when we get there.”

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