The US Department of Energy (DOE) released a report today
that assesses how critical US energy and electricity
infrastructure is vulnerable to the impacts of recent climate
Historically high temperatures in recent years have been
accompanied by droughts and extreme heat waves, more wildfires
than usual, and several intense storms that caused power and
fuel disruptions for millions of people.
These trends are expected to continue, which could further
impact energy systems critical to the nation's economy.
The US Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change
and Extreme Weather report, which builds on President
Obama's Climate Action Plan, notes that annual temperatures
across the US have increased by about 1.5°F over the last
In fact, 2012 was both the warmest year on record in the
contiguous US and saw the hottest month since the country
started keeping records in 1895. Implications for the US energy
Increased risk of temporary partial or full shutdowns at
thermoelectric power plants because of decreased water
availability for cooling and higher ambient and air water
temperatures. A study of coal plants, for example, found that
roughly 60% of the existing fleet is located in areas of
Reduced power generation from hydroelectric power plants
in some regions and seasons due to drought and declining
Risks to energy infrastructure located along the coast
from sea level rise, increasing intensity of storms and
higher storm surge and floodingpotentially disrupting
oil and gas
production, refining and distribution, as well
as electricity generation and distribution.
Increasing risks of physical damage to power lines,
transformers and electricity distribution systems from
hurricanes, storms and wildfires that are growing more
intense and more frequent.
Increased risks of disruption and delay to fuel transport
by rail and barge during more frequent periods of drought and
flooding that affect water levels in rivers and ports.
Higher air conditioning costs and risks of blackouts and
brownouts in some regions if the capacity of existing power
plants does not keep pace with the growth in peak electricity
demand due to increasing temperatures and heat waves.
In addition to identifying critical areas at risk from
climate change and extreme weather, the report identifies
activities already underway to address these challenges, and
discusses potential opportunities to make the energy sector
Potential future opportunities for federal, state and local
governments could include innovative policies that broaden the
suite of available, climate-resilient energy technologies and
encourage their deployment, improved data collection and models
to better inform researchers and lawmakers of energy sector
vulnerabilities and response opportunities, and enhanced
These activities will increase the resilience of the US
energy infrastructure by "hardening" existing facilities and structures to better
withstand severe droughts, floods, storms or wildfires and by
contributing to smarter development of new facilities.
The full report is available