Building Resilience in the Energy Sector
The vast majority of individuals and businesses across the United States count on a secure supply of energy, for everything from charging mobile phones to running massive industrial operations. As interconnections among telecommunications, transportation, and other critical systems increase, efforts to build resilience of the energy sector will benefit nearly everyone.
The energy sector is already adjusting the design and operation of gas infrastructure and the electrical grid in response to changes in the mix of commonly used fuels and the increase in electricity generated by wind and solar. Beyond these changes, deliberate actions are also being taken to enhance energy security, reliability, and resilience with respect to the effects of climate change through integrated planning, innovative energy technologies, and public–private partnerships; however, much work remains to establish a climate-ready energy system that addresses present and future risks.
In anticipation of the emerging challenges of climate change, several types of actions have the potential to increase the resilience of energy supply. For instance, actions involving system-level and operational planning—such as modifying existing equipment and/or making sound choices in selecting new facility sites and equipment purchases—can help build resilience. And any action that results in reduced energy demand can help relieve stresses on the overall energy system.
Climate Data and Tools for the Energy Sector
Possible actions in system and operation planning
- Diversify supply chains to address multiple types of disruptions
- Strengthen and coordinate emergency response plans to minimize magnitude and length of disruptions
- Develop flood and stormwater management plans to address extreme weather events and sea level rise
- Develop drought management plans to address the potential for decreased water supplies
- Develop hydropower management plans to address the potential for hydrologic extremes
Possible actions involving existing or new equipment
- Build redundancy into facilities to allow for continued operation during partial disruptions
- Storm-harden energy infrasatructure and/or elevate water-sensitive equipment to address high water levels
- Build coastal barriers using green, grey, or hybrid infrastructure to address high water levels
- Improve reliability of grid systems through back-up power supply, intelligent controls, smart grid, micro-grids, and distributed generation to better respond to disruptions
- Implement air-cooled or low-water-use cooling systems for thermoelectric power plants to address drought and increased temperatures of water for cooling
- Expand the use of non-water-intensive energy technologies (e.g., wind, photovoltaic solar)
- Relocate vulnerable facilities out of locations that may be inundated
- Relocate facilities to areas that have a more sustainable water supply
- Add peak generation and power storage capacity to minimize disruptions
- Add back-up power supply for grid disruptions
- Add regional fuel product reserves to address vulnerable fuel supply disruptions
- Increase transmission capacity within and between regions to overcome localized disruptions
Possible actions in reducing energy demand
- Improve residential and building energy, cooling, and manufacturing efficiencies
- Improve demand-response capabilities of energy infrastructure (for example, a smart grid)
- Allow flexible work schedules to transfer energy use to off-peak hours
This section is excerpted and abridged from Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II (Chapter 4: Energy Supply, Delivery, and Demand) and Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment (Chapter 4: Energy Supply and Use).
Solar panels at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Public domain photo by USAF, via Wikimedia Commons