New York City breaks all-time energy use record

It was hot and humid on Friday in New York. So hot, in fact, that New York City set an all-time record for energy usage. Yikes!

Kristina Pydynowski at Accuweather.com reports:

Friday's intense heat and humidity led to New York City setting an all-time peak electric usage record.

Electric usage in New York City and neighboring Westchester County topped out at 13,322 Megawatts (MW) at 5 p.m. EDT Friday, according to Con Edison.

That breaks the previous all-time peak usage record, which was 13,189 MW from July 22, 2011.

It wasn't just hot in the city. New York State broke its energy-use record, as well.

Katie Valentine at Think Progress notes that the use of air conditioning is on the rise as heat waves become more common:

Heat waves are already becoming more frequent and intense as temperatures rise, and duration of heat waves has increased worldwide since the 1950s. In order to find relief from the high temperatures, residents retreat to air conditioned homes and buildings, driving up the emissions that contribute to climate change. The U.S., which has long been a leader in air conditioning usage, has seen a surge in its energy useage from A.C. over the past few decades — between 1993 and 2005, the energy it took to cool U.S. homes doubled, and by 2010 it increased by another 20 percent.

But as temperatures and income levels rise, A.C. is quickly becoming a fixture in the rest of the world as well: China is on track to pass the U.S. as the biggest consumer of electricity for A.C. by 2020, and India, which is experiencing some of the fastest growth in A.C. demand, is expected to take over growth in the industry post-2020.

After last week, it may be hard to convince a New Yorker, but it is actually possible to live without air conditioning. As Lloyd Alter has documented, good design is the key:

Before air conditioning, in a bygone and surely less comfortable era, people employed all sorts of strategies for keeping cool in the heat. Houses were designed with airflow in mind -- more windows, higher ceilings..... In addition, many homes had porches where families could spend a hot day, and also sleeping porches with beds where they could ride out a hot night. Many home designs took passive solar design principles into account, even if they didn't name them as such.

As individuals, we can use helpful lists like our 10 tips to stay cool without a/c, but these aren't solutions to our bigger problem.

The climate is getting warmer and unless we design long-term, sustainable solutions, people will continue to rely on the short-term, high-energy ways of keeping cool like air conditioning, which just continue adding to the emissions that create global warming in the first place. This cycle is not sustainable.

We have the technology to alleviate this problem of high energy-use. We can design houses, apartments and even office buildings to be comfortable with little energy use and we can retrofit older buildings, as well, but it takes a vision and investment.

Tags: Air Quality | Cancer | Carbon Dioxide | Carbon Emissions | Coal