DOE Examines Climate Change Impact on Energy Sector

on July 22, 2013 at 2:00 PM

Wild Fire Burns Homes In Lake Hughes, California

DOE released a report examining the impacts of climate change on the nation’s energy and electricity infrastructure, including an assessment of ongoing efforts and potential opportunities to improve the energy sector’s climate resilience.  

On July 11, 2013, the Department of Energy (DOE) released a report examining current and future impacts of climate change on the energy sector.  The report also discusses ongoing efforts to address climate change impacts and potential opportunities to boost climate-resilient energy technologies.  It aims to advance the Administration’s climate change adaptation efforts under the Interagency Climate Adaptation Task Force and Strategic Sustainability Planning, and promotes DOE energy security goals.

The report draws attention to recent climate trends, with regard to high temperatures, droughts, wildfires, intense storms, and heat waves, highlighting that 2012 was the warmest year since 1895, when record-keeping began.  Expecting the trends to continue, the report examines three major areas challenging the energy sector:

  • Rising ambient air and water temperatures
  • Decreasing water availability
  • Growing intensity and frequency of intense storms



Among the key findings, rising temperatures and decreasing water availability pose risks to thermoelectric power generation facilities by reducing their cooling efficiency.  Water scarcity poses a major threat to unconventional energy development, such as hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery, which require massive volumes of water.  Coastal energy infrastructure faces risks from rising sea levels and increasing storm intensity.  Development of renewable energy resources – solar, wind, hydro, and bioenergy – are subject to changing weather patterns.  Hydroelectric power plants in western states have already experienced reduced energy production availability due to below average snowpack.

Electricity transmission and distribution systems face risks of physical damage from weather-related events and reduced efficiency due to higher ambient temperatures.  Prolonged periods of drought and floods affect water infrastructure, disrupting fuel transport by rail and barge.  In Arctic Alaska, onshore operations face negative impacts due to infrastructural damage from melting permafrost, whereas offshore operations could improve due to extended ice-free season.

Ongoing efforts to address climate change challenges include deployment of climate-resilient technologies, assessment of vulnerabilities, adaptation efforts, and favorable policies. The report calls for intensifying the pace, scale, and scope of the efforts.  To this end, it identifies potential opportunities, including water-efficient technologies, improved and more resilient grid infrastructure, and a strong framework of facilitating policies.

July 12, 2013 via Energy Solutions Forum]

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