When Economies Grow, Power Demand Increases

By February 3, 2008Energy

A page one story in Sunday’s Washington Post, “Threat of Power Shortages Generating New Urgency“:

With its humming data centers and air-conditioned mansions, the [Washington] region is using 18 percent more electricity than in 2001. And as demand has gone up, so have prices. Some homeowners have seen their rates jump by half or more.

Utility and government officials say the region has to face the idea that its demand for electricity could overtake the supply. In a little more than three years, they say, lights could flicker off in rolling blackouts.

Meanwhile, in South Africa, the consequences of economic growth and growing consumer demand have overtaxed infrastructure and electricity supply:

After apartheid ended, the ANC doubled the number of households connected to electricity to 70% between 1994 and 1999.

But domestic use accounts for less than 20% of the total, with most power gobbled by manufacturing, mining and commercial users, and about 5% exported.

Philip Alves of the South African Institute of International Affairs had one word for the economic impact of the crisis: “Big.” He said estimates of the damage ranged from $357 million to $1.2 billion a day but added, “It’s impossible to calculate how much GDP is lost until you have gone through the process.”

More supply, please.

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