The US Department of Energy has released a report about vulnerabilities of the US Power system in relation to climate change.
The report, nicely summarized in this piece at the New York Times, does not merely cover outages caused by storms. Rather, it discusses the vulnerability of the entire power system to alterations in our weather caused by anthropogenic climate change.
Increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, more intense storm events, and sea level rise will each independently, and in some cases in combination, affect the ability of the United States to produce and transmit electricity from fossil, nuclear, and existing and emerging renewable energy sources. These changes are also projected to affect the nation’s demand for energy and its ability to access, produce, and distribute oil and natural gas…
To summarize the report: Coal and gas burning power plants will have shortages of water necessary for cooling and may suffer partial or full shutdowns. Coastal energy infrastructure will be shut down, damaged, or put out of commission for various lengths of time because of sea level rise and intense storms. As much as we love to hate fracking, we should note that fracking uses a lot of water and with water shortages natural gas and oil from that source will be curtailed. We hope we are smart enough to put large scale solar, wind, and bio fuel generation facilities where there is appropriate wind and sun. But with climate change, the sunniness and windiness patterns are shifting, so we can easily get that wrong. Electricity transmission systems ten to get blotto’ed because of big storms, and flooding and drought can affect both rail and boat transport systems. Near shore oil and gas operations in the ARctic region are being messed up by melting permafrost. As temperatures increase, electricity-hungry cooling increases demand on an already overstressed infrastructure.