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A Warming Climate Means Duke Energy Can Count On More Record-Breaking Power Spikes

A map of an arrow pointing from Raleigh, NC to Pharr, TX.
Climate Central
Climate Central
Climate Central projects that Raleigh summers could be more like those in South Texas by 2100.

Duke Energy Carolinas customers used a summertime record amount of energy last week. The only time the company saw a higher use was during the polar vortex in February 2015.

The Southeast will set more of these records moving forward, according to Sean Sublette, a meteorologist with the nonprofit news and research organization Climate Central.

"You have a warming atmosphere, higher population, more demand for air conditioning and we'd absolutely expect these numbers to go up and very likely continue to go up further in the coming decades," said Sublette, adding that air conditioning units have to work harder in humid weather.

Climate Central's research projects that Raleigh summers could be more like the ones in South Texas by the end of the century.

Sublette pointed out that the type of power resources we use will have repercussions on the climate itself.

"If we're predominantly [using] fossil fuels, the combustion of those leads to more carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, other greenhouse gasses, and that will warm the planet," Sublette said. "Conversely, if we start using more renewable energy that does not emit as much carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, we're going to cut back on the amount of warming that will take place in the coming decades."

Duke Energy estimates fossil fuels make up about 46 percent of the company's power portfolio, which should drop eight percent over the next 15 years. The company projects its mix will include a three-percent renewable energy share by 2031.

"We have sufficient resources to meet our customers' energy needs,"  said Duke Energy Spokesman Megan Miles. "We always like to remind them as well to use energy more wisely inside their home at all times because that helps save them money on their bills."

Miles recommends people close blinds during the day, turn off unnecessary lights, and and bump up the thermostat a few degrees when no one's home.

Rebecca Martinez produces podcasts at WUNC. She’s been at the station since 2013, when she produced Morning Edition and reported for newscasts and radio features. Rebecca also serves on WUNC’s Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Accountability (IDEA) Committee.
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