Dark year coming?

NextGen study forecasts blackouts and brownouts in 2009

A study released last week by the NextGen Energy Council forecasts that the U.S. “faces potentially crippling electricity brownouts and blackouts beginning in the summer of 2009, which may cost tens of billions of dollars and threaten lives.”

The prospect is particularly dire “if particularly vulnerable regions, like the Western U.S., experience unusually hot temperatures for prolonged periods of time,” as reserve margins for power generation—which need to be, the study says, around 15 percent—“have declined precipitously to 17 percent in 2007, from 30-40 percent in the early 1990s.”

NextGen, a nonprofit group of energy and government leaders, says that with demand for electricity expected to grow by 18 percent over the next 10 years, the U.S. will require 120 gigawatts just to maintain a 15 percent margin, requiring a $300 billion investment in new power plants.