Hoosiers will heat homes and businesses less but rely more on air conditioning as Indiana’s climate warms, said a group of Purdue University researchers.
Indiana residents will also get more of their energy from natural gas and renewable sources as those become more cost-effective throughout the rest of the century, according to a report by the Purdue Climate Change Research Center.
On Tuesday, the center released its eighth report as part of its Indiana Climate Change Impacts Assessment. Researchers looked at Indiana’s 15 largest cities and impacts of a decrease in heating demand and increase for cooling, which is projected to increase 23 to 28 percent by mid-century.
Cities north of Indianapolis, including South Bend, Goshen and Kokomo, will see increased demand for cooling more than cities to the south including Jeffersonville and Evansville, due to warming temperatures in the north.
For energy utilities, the impact could mean adding storage capacity for additional demand and planning for brown-outs.
“They just need to be on their toes and shape the energy supply with the timing, the amount, the locations where they’re supplying, the type of plans that are generating power,” said Jeff Dukes, director of the research center. “They need to be on their toes and look at what’s coming down the road, planning new meet these new challenges.
“You’ll see warming in all seasons ... many fewer mild days,” Dukes added. “Comfortable temperatures, those in the summer, are virtually going to disappear from the state. So less comfortable weather here, and we expect to see less extreme cold in the future.”
For consumers, that means higher cooling costs in summer and possibly considering alternative energy sources such as solar or wind power. Hoosiers may need to seek state legislation that authorizes carbon taxes on utility companies, or individual tax credits for switching to renewable energy sources, the report notes.
A $40 per ton carbon tax is seen as one way to promote reducing emissions; such a tax, figured as a conservative amount, would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by about 10 percent annually, researchers said.
“Most economists believe a carbon tax of $100 or more is what’s necessary to effectively reduce carbon emissions, but this shows that even a modest tax would be a powerful incentive,” said Leigh Raymond, a political science professor at Purdue.
However, many energy companies are phasing out coal use as natural gas becomes more prominent and renewable sources grow.
The study takes into account that days involving extreme heat will become more prominent, annual rainfall will increase as spring and winter become wetter, and the annual temperature in Indiana will increase approximately 1.2 degrees Fahrenheit.
Indiana currently gets about 73 percent of its energy from burning coal, 18 percent from natural gas, 5 percent from wind and the rest from other gases, hydroelectric sources, solar and biomass, researchers said. That is expected to continue changing as natural gas and renewable sources become cheaper than coal and coal-fired plants reach the end of their expected life spans.