Climate-Caused Blackouts Ahead, Warns DOE

John M. Broder writes about a new U.S. Department of Energy report released July 11th that details the vulnerability of the nation's entire energy system to climate change effects - from droughts, intense storms, rising seas, lower river levels...

2 minute read

July 13, 2013, 1:00 PM PDT

By Irvin Dawid


Simply put, every source of power will be affected. Just as the climate will cause more strains placed on the power sector, e.g., from rising heat in West, the sector will be subject to numerous disruptions - the perfect storm.

Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts.

We don't have to wait, writes Broder. It's happening now.

The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines.

Every region in the United States will be affected. In the West, "(t)he Energy Department’s Argonne National Laboratory found that air conditioning demand will require 34 gigawatts of new electricity generating capacity by 2050, equivalent to the construction of 100 power plants. The cost to consumers will exceed $40 billion, the lab said."

In the Southwest, climate-caused water shortages will affect the cooling necessary for fossil fuel power plants as well as the production of hydroelectric power.

The report was overseen by Jonathan Pershing, deputy assistant secretary for climate change policy and technology. He said that "cities, states and the federal government must take steps to adapt and improve their resiliency in the face of more wicked weather."

The 82-page report (PDF) is composed of four chapters (in addition to executive summary and conclusion):

  1. Increasing Temperatures
  2. Decreasing Water Availability
  3. Increasing Storms, Flooding, and Sea Level Rise
  4. Adaptation Actions and Major Opportunities

Thursday, July 11, 2013 in The New York Times - U.S.

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