State energy commission braces itself for climate change's affects on infrastructure

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The Department of Water and Power (DWP) San Fernando Valley Generating Station is seen in Sun Valley, California.

The California Energy Commission is taking the first steps to prepare the state's energy infrastructure for the effects of climate change.

The Commission convened science experts on Monday to discuss the risks that general warming and extreme weather pose for power plants and transmission lines.

One of California's longest-standing sources of electricity could be compromised by climate change. Many hydropower plants rely on snowmelt from the Sierra, says Joshua Viers of UC Davis. But that same snowpack may be reduced by as much as 50 percent by the end of the century.

“Most models have indicated slight decrease in total amount of generation," he added. "That varies from a few percentages in the near future to perhaps up to 10 percent of our hydropower being reduced.”

At the same time, experts say warming will substantially drive up electricity consumption as we use more air conditioning across the state.

The challenge is further compounded because warm temperatures make power plants and transmission lines less efficient.

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