National Geographic : 1984 Sep
THE NEXT ENERGY CRISIS Will we have enough electricity? W ith our economy growing again, the demand for electricity is increasing rapidly. Unless plans are made now to sat isfy this growing demand, we could have electricity shortages-certainly shortages of reasonably priced electricity-in the early 1990s. It's hard to imagine short ages of electricity since it's always there when we need it. Recently some regions of our country have had more than the minimum 20 percent reserve generating capacity needed to assure reliable ser vice. But these reserves are shrinking, and they could become inadequate as our demand for electricity grows faster than the utilities' ability to provide it. Economic growth increases electricity use For decades, our use of electricity has grown along with our economy In 1983, both the GNP and electricity use grew over 3 percent. So far this year, they're growing at about 8 percent. Our homes, businesses, and espe cially our industries are turn ing increasingly to electricity. Most estimates of future electricity growth range from 2 to 4 percent per year, even with conservation. At just 3 percent growth per year, we'll need 50 percent more electric ity by the year 2000. Even if all the plants now under con struction are completed, that's only about half of what we'll need.