This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

March 12, 2014

Report Assesses Energy Infrastructure Risks

According to assessments by the National Research Council and the U.S. Global Change Research Program, U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts—particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages. Climate changes are projected to affect infrastructure throughout the energy supply chain, thereby increasing the risk of disruptions.

For example, the report noted that electricity generation infrastructure, such as power plants, is vulnerable to severe weather or water shortages, which can interrupt operations. It also noted that electricity transmission and distribution infrastructure, including power lines and substations, is also susceptible to severe weather and may be further stressed by rising demand for electricity as temperatures rise.

A number of measures exist to help reduce climate-related risks and adapt the nation's energy systems to weather and climate-related impacts. These options generally fall into two broad categories: hardening and resiliency. Hardening measures involve physical changes that improve the durability and stability of specific pieces of infrastructure. In contrast, resiliency measures allow energy systems to continue operating after damage and allow them to recover more quickly; for example, installing back-up generators to restore electricity more quickly after severe weather events. The report noted that the Energy Department and other key federal entities have begun to take steps to address the issues. See the General Accounting Office news release.