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When Do Different Scenarios of Future Electricity Demand Start to Meaningfully Diverge?

Presentation Date
Thursday, December 15, 2022 at 9:00am - Thursday, December 15, 2022 at 12:30pm
McCormick Place - Poster Hall, Hall - A



Climate and population change are known to influence electricity demand, but what is the impact of uncertainty in climate and population projections on electricity demand in the United States (U.S.) over the next 30 years? This question has important implications for investment decisions in the energy sector, which are typically made using a 15- to 30-year time horizon. Simply put, if future climate and population scenarios do not lead to meteorological conditions and subsequent energy demands that are distinctly different within the first 30 years then, for the purposes of investment decisions, it may not matter which potential pathway we are most likely on. The Integrated, Multisector, Multiscale Modeling (IM3) project has generated a wide, yet plausible range of 21st century high-resolution climate and population scenarios for the U.S. The IM3 projections span two climate scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways 4.5 and 8.5) and two population scenarios (Shared Socioeconomic Pathways 3 and 5). For each of the climate scenarios, we reflect a range of climate model uncertainty by using boundary conditions from a set of climate models that are hotter and colder than the multi-model mean. In total there are eight (2 x 2 x 2) IM3 scenarios. This work explores a basic question: When do future climate and energy outcomes start to meaningfully diverge across the eight scenarios? The analysis is done on both the raw meteorology time-series from each scenario as well as a time-series of projected total electricity demand generated using IM3’s Total ELectricity Loads (TELL) model. We also explore the spatial heterogeneity of the divergence signal to identify regions of the country that may be more or less path dependent.

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