Industry and governments at the local, state, regional, and federal levels are taking actions to improve the resilience of the Nation’s energy system and to develop quantitative metrics to assess the economic and energy security benefits associated with these measures. Current efforts include planning and operational measures that seek to anticipate climate impacts and prevent or respond to damages more effectively, as well as hardening measures (including physical barriers, protective casing, or other upgrades) to protect assets from damage, multi-institutional and public–private partnerships for coordinated action, and development and deployment of new technologies to enhance system resilience (Figure 4.5).3,37,38,39,40,41,42,65
Energy companies, utilities, and system operators are increasingly employing advanced data, modeling, and analysis to support a range of assessment and planning activities. Accurate load forecasting and generation planning now require considering both extreme weather and climate change. These are also essential considerations for planning and deploying energy infrastructure with a useful service life of decades. Coastal infrastructure plans are beginning to take into account rising sea levels and the associated increased risk of flooding. Resource plans for new thermoelectric power plants and fuel refineries are considering potential changes to fuel and water supplies. For example, the inability of natural gas-fired power plants to store fuel on site is leading energy providers to explore various resilience options, such as co-firing with fuel oil, which can be more readily stored; improving information sharing and coordination between electric generators, gas suppliers, and pipeline operators; and, ensuring the availability of more flexible resources for use to mitigate the uncertainties associated with natural gas fuel risks.31,66 Advanced tools and techniques are helping planners understand how changes in extreme weather and in the energy system will affect future vulnerabilities and identify the actions necessary to establish a climate-ready energy system.
For the electric grid, improved modeling and analysis of changing generation resources, electricity demand, and usage patterns are helping industry, utilities, and other stakeholders plan for future changes, such as the role of increased storage, demand response, smart grid technologies, energy efficiency, and distributed generation including solar and fuel cells.67,68 Energy companies, utilities, and system operators are increasingly evaluating long-term capital expansion strategies, their system operations, the resilience of supply chains, and the potential of mutual assistance efforts.3,29,69 For example, electricity demand response programs and energy efficiency programs are helping shift or reduce electricity usage during peak periods, improving grid reliability without increasing power generation. A central challenge to such planning is dealing with the broad range of uncertainties inherent to infrastructure investment planning (for example, climate, technology, and load). Advanced tools are being developed that help inform investment decisions that balance costs as well as risk exposure70,71,72 in an uncertain future.
Private and public–private partnerships are increasingly being used to share lessons learned and to coordinate action. Municipal, state, and tribal communities (see Ch. 15: Tribes, KM 1) are working together to address climate change related risks,3,73 as in the case of the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities and C40 Cities partnerships, which are empowering communities to collaborate, share knowledge, and drive meaningful, measurable, and sustainable action on resilience.74,75 By way of the U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience, a number of utilities from across the country are collaborating with the DOE to develop resilience planning guidance, conduct climate change vulnerability assessments, and develop and implement cost-effective resilience solutions.76 Additionally, the Administration established the Build America Investment Initiative as an interagency effort led by the Departments of Treasury and Transportation to promote increased investment in U.S. infrastructure, particularly through public–private partnerships.
Hardening measures protect energy systems from extreme weather hazards. Measures being adopted include, but are not limited to, adding natural or physical barriers to elevate, encapsulate, waterproof, or protect equipment vulnerable to flooding; reinforcing assets vulnerable to wind damage; adding or improving cooling or ventilation equipment to improve system performance during drought or extreme heat conditions; adding redundancy to increase a system’s resilience to disruptions; and deploying distributed generation equipment (such as solar, fuel cells, or small combined-heat-and-power generators), energy storage, and microgrids with islanding capabilities (the ability to isolate a local, self-sufficient power grid during outages) to protect critical services from widespread outages while promoting improved energy efficiency and associated appliance standards. While hardening assets in place may be effective, in other situations, relocating assets may be more cost effective in the longer term.
One key category of hardening measures is addressing the vulnerability of the Nation’s energy systems in water-constrained areas (Ch. 3: Water, KM 1). Technologies and practices are available to help address these vulnerabilities (Ch. 17: Complex Systems, KM 3) to thermoelectric power plants, including alternative cooling systems that reduce water withdrawals; nontraditional water sources, including brackish or municipal wastewater; and power generation technologies that greatly reduce freshwater use, such as wind, photovoltaic solar, and natural gas combined-cycle technologies.77,78,79,80,81 Technology is also enabling the growing use of produced water (water produced as a byproduct with oil and gas extraction) and brackish groundwater for water-intensive oil and gas drilling techniques.82 However, expanding the use of non-freshwater sources puts a greater demand on the energy sector to provide the power to capture, treat, and deliver these water supplies.83,84 Research on innovative future biofuels that are adapted to local climates can also reduce the water needs of biofuels and the possible impacts of a changing climate on the suitability of land for biofuels production.
The current pace, scale, and scope of efforts to improve energy system resilience are likely to be insufficient to fully meet the challenges presented by a changing climate and energy sector, as several key barriers exist. Among these impediments is a lack of reliable projections of climate change at a local level and the associated risks to energy assets, as well as a lack of a national, regional, or local cost-effective risk reduction strategy. This includes a consideration of where adaptation measures are pursued, thereby addressing the uncertainty concerning their effectiveness and the need for additional resilience investments. Addressing these obstacles would benefit from improved awareness of energy asset vulnerability and performance, cost-effective resilience-enhancing energy technologies and operations plans, standardized methodologies and metrics for assessing the benefits of resilience measures, and expanded public–private partnerships to address vulnerabilities collaboratively.1,2,3,45 Ensuring that poor and marginalized populations, who often face a higher risk from climate change and energy system vulnerabilities, are part of the planning process can help lead to effective resilience actions and provide ancillary co-benefits to society. Energy infrastructure is long-lived and, as a result, today’s decisions about how to locate, expand, and modify the Nation’s energy system will influence system reliability, resilience, and economic security for decades.1,2 In addition, without substantial and sustained mitigation efforts to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, the need for adaptation and resilience investments to address the impacts of climate change on the energy sector is expected to increase if the most severe consequences are to be avoided in the long term.