WEST LAFAYETTE -- As climate change brings hotter summers and warmer winters, Hoosiers will use less energy to heat their homes -- but more energy for air conditioning.

And if current trends continue, a larger percentage of that energy will come from clean-burning natural gas and renewable resources like wind and solar power.

That’s according to the latest Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment report, “Climate Change and Indiana’s Energy Sector,” released in February. 

The Purdue Climate Change Research Center coordinates the annual report, which draws on research from dozens of Indiana universities and stakeholder groups.

While energy used for heating will fall significantly, the report suggests the increased use of air conditioning will grow Hoosiers' overall energy consumption.

Rising temperatures will cut Indiana’s residential energy consumption by as much as 3% by mid-century. But the energy needs of businesses, which generally rely more on cooling than heating, will increase by as much as 5.5% over that period, a potential overall cost increase of more than $100 million annually, according to the report.

“We will have more need for dealing with warm-weather problems than cold-weather problems,” said Jeff Dukes, director of the climate change research center. “If you’re an energy company, you’ll need to be prepared for these demand shifts, especially as summer needs may stress the state’s energy infrastructure.”

COMMERCIAL VS. RESIDENTIAL

Assessing heating and cooling needs, the report found that in the commercial sector most energy is devoted to space cooling, rather than space heating or water heating.

When it comes to Hoosier residences, the opposite is true. The highest fraction of climate-sensitive total energy demand is for space heating, followed by water heating, with space cooling having a relatively smaller demand.

The energy needed to cool retail and light industrial facilities would increase as the state’s annual average temperature rises 5 to 6 degrees by 2050 and 6 to 10 degrees by 2100, according to the report.

Extreme heat is also projected to become more frequent and intense.

For instance, in southern Indiana, the daily high temperature is expected to exceed 95 degrees during 50 to 89 days per year by late century. The southern third of the state historically has averaged about seven extremely hot days per year.

Winters, too, will change, with similar average temperature increases meaning less energy will be used on heaters.

By 2080, heating demand is expected to fall by 13 to 28% per capita in the state’s 15 largest cities. Meanwhile, cooling demand is expected to rise from 32 to 40% by the same year.

Energy needs spurred by extreme heat will sometimes challenge the capacity of power plants, transmission lines and substations, potentially causing power disruptions. 

FLOODING, DROUGHT

Wild variations in precipitation could also cause more spring flooding and summer drought, affecting coal delivered by barges and threatening cooling processes at power plants.

Based on industry-side projections, and even without taking into account probable lobbying by environmental groups, energy producers of the future will be more likely to use low- or no-carbon emitting processes, according to the report’s lead author, Purdue Professor Leigh Raymond.

“Coal is basically being priced out of the market,” said Raymond, a founding member and associate director of the climate change research center. “Natural gas has already cut coal significantly based on price, and renewables have become much cheaper recently."

Currently, Indiana gets about 73% of its energy from burning coal, 18% from natural gas, 5% from wind and the rest from alternative sources including other gases, hydroelectric generators, solar and biomass.

“If those trends continue, which the highest-quality predictions seem to indicate, then coal will likely disappear from the energy mix,” Raymond said.

He projects renewable energy consumption to grow dramatically by the end of the century, with the balance between wind and solar determined by future infrastructure costs.

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