Water cuts could lead to higher energy bills for Arizonans in 2023
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Water cuts expected for the Colorado River are just around the corner. Energy experts in the Valley expect these shortages also to impact the state’s energy supply which could mean higher power bills.
Less water means less power generated at the hydroelectric plants at Lake Mead and Lake Powell. According to the Irrigation and Electrical District Association of Arizona (IEDA), the two lakes impacted by a current drought and the upcoming water cuts generate power for the Western grid of the United States. Arizona receives about 5% of its electricity from these two lakes.
Energy experts with IEDA say the rivers are only generating about 70% of the power than what they used to create due to the growing drought. While it’s too early to tell, these experts said after the water cuts; the plants could see just 50% of the power generated.
If energy demand stays the same, but the energy supply goes down, it could lead to higher energy bills. “That’s what we are seeing for customers. Some of the replacement power that replaces the energy from the droughts costs much more to replace the energy lost from those hydropowered dams,” said Ed Gerak, the Irrigation and Electrical District Association of Arizona executive director.
While Lake Mead and Powell supply Arizona with about 5% of its energy, experts said this energy is essential because of how flexible it can be used. Take solar power, for example. When the sun goes down, the energy from Lake Powell and Lake Mead helps to replace that energy needed for the overnight hours.
Energy experts say the solution is adding more power plants and sources, which they’ve been trying to do but running into roadblocks in recent months.
“There is a need for new plant capacity quickly to come online but with the supply chain issues going on that’s delayed some power projects that we’ve been involved with. So that’s my big concern is getting enough new power online to meet demands in the coming years,” said Gerak.
The electrical district association for Arizona is already projecting higher energy demand for the upcoming years, so if they need to replace the energy lost from these water cuts, you could see a high energy bill next year.
Those water cuts to the Colorado River begin January 1st. According to the Central Arizona Project, 21% of Arizona’s access to Colorado will be cut, which equals about 9% of the state’s use. The most significant impact will be on farmers. They will have to find ways to keep their crops alive using less water.
It could impact the whole country as Arizona provides a good portion of the nation and Canada’s leafy greens during the winter. While these cuts don’t begin till January, the CAP expects more shortages in the coming years.
Water experts met this week to discuss the upcoming water shortage. However, they remain optimistic about the situation.
“There are parts of the country where cities are trying to figure out how to hold back the sea because of rising sea levels. There are parts of the country that are trying to figure out how to prevent hurricanes. The problem we are trying to solve for Phoenix and Las Vegas is how to have enough water. I would choose that problem over wrangling hurricanes or holding back rising oceans any day. I’m quite confident that we can solve that problem,” said Sarah Porter with Kyl Center for Water Policy
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