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Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz Releases Report on America’s Regional Vulnerabilities to Climate Change

October 9, 2015 - 2:44pm

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Report examines U.S. energy system’s climate threats and solutions; Moniz joins Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti at event highlighting resiliency solutions

LOS ANGELES -- While visiting California, a state plagued by persistent drought and dangerous wildfires, U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz today released an Energy Department report that examines the expected regional energy sector vulnerabilities to climate change. The report divides the United States into nine regions, finding that the severe challenges from climate change across America will require a more comprehensive and accelerated national, regional and community approach to keep the U.S. energy system reliable and safe. The report also notes the important efforts to improve climate resilience in each region to handle the new weather extremes and other impacts from climate change.

To highlight the challenges and opportunities found in the report, later today Secretary Moniz will join Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti to visit an L.A. fire station that will soon be outfitted with a new solar energy and battery storage backup energy system. The Southwest section of the report details how the regional energy system, including power lines north of Los Angeles, are vulnerable to wildfires that could increase due to climate change.

“In recent years, record temperatures, droughts, and floods have damaged energy infrastructure and disrupted energy systems, affecting American families and businesses across the country,” said Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz. “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 full report, entitled Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector: Regional Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions, including all nine regional reports, is available on the Energy Department’s website HERE.

Climate change is already affecting the U.S. energy sector, and projections indicate more frequent and extreme weather events are likely in the coming years, with region-specific impacts ranging from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves. A regional climate’s departure from historical averages could significantly impede energy system performance and expose the system to much greater risks, particularly with aging energy infrastructure.

Some key examples from the report include:

  • Oil and gas upstream operations are most vulnerable in the Southeast, Southern Great Plains, and Alaska, particularly to decreasing water availability, and increasing temperatures and frequency of intense storms, hurricanes and storm surge.
  • Fuel transport in every region is vulnerable to a variety of climate impacts, including increasing heavy precipitation, heat waves, drought, hurricanes, and sea level rise-enhanced storm surge.
  • Thermoelectric power generation is vulnerable to increasing temperatures and reduced water availability in most regions, particularly in the Midwest, Great Plains, and southern regions.
  • Hydropower is vulnerable to reduced snowpack, earlier melting, and changes to precipitation and runoff patterns, mainly in western regions.
  • Bioenergy crops in the Midwest and Northern Great Plains may be harmed by higher temperatures and more frequent droughts and floods.
  • 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.
  • Electricity demand is affected by increasing temperatures and is a key vulnerability in nearly every region.

While the impacts of climate change will vary by region, climate impacts to the electric grid, thermoelectric power generation, fuel transport, and fluctuating electricity demand will become common in nearly every region. And as more weather extremes occur due to climate change, energy infrastructure designed to perform across a known range of historical conditions may not be able to withstand the projected changes to temperatures, precipitation, hurricanes, wildfire, and sea-level rise.

The Obama administration has responded to these changing circumstances by investing in our energy infrastructure, providing better planning for the energy system through the U.S. Quadrennial Energy Review, and taking action to cut the pollution that is causing climate change.

To facilitate additional progress, the Department of Energy continues to support basic scientific discovery, and enhancing research and development of innovative and climate resilient energy technologies. In addition, the Department is providing technical information and assistance, and actively pursuing partnerships with states, communities, and the private sector, including initiatives such as the Climate Action Champions with communities, and the Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience with power companies, to accelerate investment in developing and deploying a clean, affordable, reliable and resilient 21st century energy system.

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