Variable Voltage

Variable Voltage

By Nick Dmitrovich with data from the IN CCIA

Did you know the electricity powering your lights is only a fraction of a second old by the time you use it? Most of Indiana’s energy comes from coal, and it’s generated based on need. Regulating the output of power plants constantly is vital to supplying the grid with enough power, so any changes in demand must be well accounted for and understood. Experts are predicting several changes to our energy demand and the way Hoosiers will consume energy in the near future.

As an industrial-heavy state, Indiana uses a whole lot of power. We’re the ninth-most energy intensive state per capita in the country, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), and roughly 75 percent of what we use comes from coal. This means we output more carbon dioxide than about 42 other states, giving us a front-row seat to watch the effects of climate change.

As the state warms, our energy demand is going to change. There is a major push right now to switch Indiana over to more renewable sources of energy, but wherever the power comes from is still going to have to keep up with increased demand. So, just how much are our energy needs project to shift?


Energy Needs of the Not-Too-Distant Future

A new report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment (IN CCIA) described how Indiana’s future energy profile will be affected by changes to our climate, and what those changes will mean for Hoosier families and businesses. The IN CCIA is led by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center (PCCRC).

Several key takeaways from the report include:

  • Houses will save. Overall residential energy consumption is expected to decline as the state’s climate warms, by about 3 percent by mid-century and as much as 3.5 percent by late-century. This is because Indiana homes use more energy for heating than cooling.
  • Businesses will spend. Commercial buildings are expected to see increases in overall energy consumption by about 5 percent by mid-century and up to 5.5 percent by late-century. This is because these buildings use more energy for cooling than heating.
  • We’ll have to heat less. Per capita residential and commercial heating demand in Indiana’s 15 largest cities is projected to decline 8 to 13 percent by mid-century, with per capita heating demand falling as much as 27 percent below 2015 levels by late-century.
  • We’ll have to cool more. Per capita residential cooling demand in Indiana’s 15 largest cities is projected to increase 23 to 28 percent by mid-century, with per capita urban cooling demand rising up to 40 percent above 2015 levels by late century.
  • Industries will be less affected. The report noted that past research has shown that industrial and transportation sectors are comparatively insensitive to climate and energy demand in those sectors is not expected to change significantly due to the projected climate changes through 2080.


What About Supply?

Fortunately, even though the profile of where Indiana’s energy comes from will change over time, climate change itself will have very little impact on our projected future supply. Years from now, we’re likely going to be relying much more on renewable energy sources over fossil fuels and innovations in technology could significantly impact how much energy buildings will need to consume. But, in general:

  • In the minimum climate change scenario, Indiana is projected to use about 65 percent coal and 35 percent natural gas to generate electricity by 2050. Less than 1 percent of energy will come from all other sources during this timeframe.
  • By 2080, about 51 percent of the state’s electricity supply would come from natural gas and about 48 percent from wind power, with the remainder coming from other sources.
  • In projections for moderate and high climate change scenarios, the electricity mix remains virtually the same as the minimum climate change scenario throughout the century.

To surmise, even though the climate will warm to uncertain levels and our sources of electricity will change in potentially different ways, it’s likely that our supply will remain consistent and intact. As the report states, this is “not surprising given the small projected effects on statewide net energy demand in the commercial and residential sectors.”


Good with the Bad

As the state gets warmer, we’re going to have to focus more on our cooling systems and their energy use, but fortunately our supply is projected to remain consistent. Homes might do a little better than commercial businesses in the future but, importantly, the state’s economically-vital industrial sector won’t be affected too much. At the very least, some stability in these uncertain times stands out as a positive note.





Source: Raymond, Leigh; Gotham, Douglas; McClain, William; Mukhopadhyay, Sayanti; Nateghi, Roshanak; Preckel, Paul V.; Schubert, Peter; Singh, Shweta; Wachs, Liz; Widhalm, Melissa; and Dukes, Jeffrey, “Climate Change and Indiana’s Energy Sector: A Report from the Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment” (2019).