DOE: climate change to affect energy

July 12, 2013 at 11:17 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 12 (UPI) -- The nation's energy sector is at risk from climate change, says a new report from the Department of Energy.

"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," the department said in the report, released Thursday.

"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," it states.

Annual temperatures have increased about 1.5 degrees in the last century, the report says, and 2012 was the warmest year on record.

The report pointed to an Argonne National Laboratory study showing higher peak electricity demand as a result of climate change-related temperature increases will require an additional 34 gigawatts of new power generation capacity just in the West by 2050, costing consumers $45 billion.

Since 1980, more than 130 extreme weather events costing $1 billion or more in damages have occurred, the report notes. But as the nation's infrastructure ages, the report says, storm-related power outages are likely to become increasingly frequent, costing $20 billion to $50 billion a year.

The report cited Hurricane Sandy last October in which more than 8 million customers lost power in 21 affected states as scores of power plants, oil refineries, fuel pipelines and petroleum terminals were either damaged or experienced shutdowns.

"The magnitude of the challenge posed by climate change on an aging and already stressed U.S. energy system could outpace current adaptation efforts, unless a more comprehensive and accelerated approach is adopted," the report warns.

Jonathan Pershing, deputy assistant secretary for climate change policy and technology with the DOE told The Hill newspaper the department's report is the first of several in the coming weeks and months.

Later this summer, the DOE will issue a report on how climate change could impact the electric grid, followed by a report on the effects of droughts on water supply for hydropower, said Pershing, who previously was second in command for the State Department's international climate change efforts.

Information contained in the reports could encourage regulators, governments and utilities to better protect their systems against extreme weather, Pershing said. The data could also help to boost investment in the energy sector, because potential investors will have a better idea on the vulnerability of projects to climate change.

"We at DOE can help with that kind of data for investors, regulators, utilities," Pershing said. "There's a broad suite of players."

The DOE says the report builds on President Obama's Climate Action Plan, unveiled June 25.

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