- The impacts of climate change are poised to wreak havoc on the United States electric industry, according to a new report from the Department of Energy.
- The analysis, released in drought-stricken California by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, breaks the country into nine regions and examines what climate changes will have the greatest impacts.
- DOE found electric grid operations and infrastructure in every region are vulnerable to a variety of impacts, including increasing temperatures, heavy rainfall events, wildfires and hurricanes.
The Obama administration has released a report examining the regional impacts of climate change, finding widespread impacts to the utility industry and a potential threat to grid resiliency.
“In recent years, record temperatures, droughts, and floods have damaged energy infrastructure and disrupted energy systems, affecting American families and businesses across the country,” DOE Secretary Ernest Moniz said in a statement. “To address the harsh impacts of climate change and extreme weather, we need innovative solutions that will make our energy sector more resilient, more flexible, and more efficient, as we build a cleaner, more climate-friendly energy system.”
The report finds upstream gas operations in the Southeast, Southern Great Plains and Alaska are vulnerable due to decreasing water availability, increasing temperatures and frequency of intense storms, hurricanes and storm surge. Fuel transport in every region is vulnerable to a variety of climate impacts, DOE said.
"Electric grid operations and infrastructure in every region is vulnerable to a variety of climate impacts, including increasing temperatures, heavy rainfall events, wildfire, hurricanes, and storm surge," the agency explained. "Electricity demand is affected by increasing temperatures and is a key vulnerability in nearly every region."
Droughts and increasing temperatures will impact thermoelectric power generation in most regions, DOE said, but particularly in the Midwest, Great Plains, and southern regions.
Climate change has increasingly stepped into the spotlight as one of the trends potentially disrupting grid reliability and infrastructure. The U.S. EPA's Clean Power Plan has been the latest piece of regulatory policy aimed at combating greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to stem the tide of climate change. Even so, the power sector only composes a third of United States' carbon emissions, though advocates of the plan said it's a step in the right direction.
An ambitious climate bill rolled out by the U.S. Senate Democrat party also threw down an even greater challenge to up the Obama administration's goals to deal with climate change. Though unlikely to pass the GOP-controlled congress, the American Energy Innovation Act of 2015 nonetheless contains an extensive list of provisions aimed at modernizing the U.S. energy infrastructure and promote renewable energy.
It also included provisions for open-source distribution planning, microgrid and storage pilots for the DOE alongside upgrades to the gas pipeline system and electric grid. It also callsfor a national Energy Efficiency Resource Standard.