Population, climate and electricity use in the Arctic: Integrated analysis of Alaska community data


Towns and villages of Arctic Alaska experience substantial year-to-year variations in weather, overlaid on longer-term warming trends. Community populations often are changing as well, reflecting highly variable net migration, overlaid on longer-term trends of natural increase. Both environmental and population change affect Arctic communities’ energy needs. Energy needs in the Arctic tend to be high and expensive, posing challenges to communities’ long-term viability. In this paper, we analyze relationships between weather, population, and one important measured component of energy—community-level electricity consumption. Electricity for the most part is generated locally from diesel fuel, which has a local environmental footprint as well. Taking a new approach to the integrated analysis of climate and human-dimensions data, we apply mixed-effects modeling to time series of electricity, weather, population, and price indicators across 42 Alaska towns and villages. Population dominates annual variations in electricity use, showing both general and community-specific effects that are strongest in the regional centers. Weather also affects electricity use, but for different reasons than it does in more urban areas to the south. Given population stability, a warming climate should lead to lower electricity demand. Population growth can override climate effects, however. Net of population, weather, and price, there has been an upward trend in per capita electricity use.



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Population and Environment



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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2011