Regional Vulnerabilities Caused by Climate Change

12/01/2015 |

See what disruptions your energy infrastructure could experience

Storm clouds above buildings

Warmer temperatures, greater risks of wildfires, declining water availability and heavier precipitation are disrupting power reliability across the U.S.

How stable is your region’s energy infrastructure against climate change? A DOE report examines the projected weaknesses and the impact of more frequent and extreme weather events on energy security.

Region-specific concerns range from more severe droughts and wildfires to more powerful hurricanes and record heat waves. Everything from oil operations, fuel transportation, hydropower generation, grid infrastructure and bioenergy crops are facing disruption.

Learn how your area’s departure from historical averages could significantly impede energy system performance and expose your facility to power quality issues.

Northwest: Hydropower provides more than 70% of electricity. Warmer temperatures and less mountain snowpack will shift peak streamflow, increasing electricity demand for cooling in the summer when available hydropower generation is reduced.

Southwest: System reliability is increasingly threatened by higher temperatures, declining water availability and greater risk of wildfire.

Great Plains: The northern states produce several key energy sources, but delivery via railroad and pipelines could be disrupted by heavy precipitation events and associated flooding and erosion. The yield for biofuel crops could be diminished as well. Those along the Gulf Coast are facing increased intensity for hurricanes and rising sea levels, all of which can damage energy infrastructure.

Midwest: More than 90% of electricity is generated by coal-fired and other thermoelectric power plants. These are vulnerable to increasing temperatures, which reduce the generation and transmission capacity of power plants and lines while simultaneously increasing electricity demand for cooling.

Northeast: While this area is historically cool, increased electricity demand for cooling is expected as temperatures climb. Sea level rise and storm surges threaten coastal energy infrastructure while inland infrastructure (roads, railroads, refineries and power lines) is vulnerable to more frequent flooding.

Southeast: A large portion of the energy infrastructure is located in low-lying coastal plains that are susceptible to flooding. High winds, coastal erosion and large waves from hurricanes and sea level rise can jeopardize oil and gas production, ports, pipelines, refineries and storage facilities, as well as electricity generation and transmission.

The full report, which also includes information on Alaska, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico, is entitled Climate Change and the U.S. Energy Sector: Regional Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions. Download at

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