U.S. SUBSTANTIAL DAMAGES
PLATTS - Climate change is likely to boost the threat of more frequent and longer-lasting power outages affecting critical energy infrastructure, as well as create imbalances in fuel availability and demand, a climate assessment released by the Trump administration concluded.
The National Climate Assessment from 13 government agencies warned of wide-ranging impacts from a changing climate, and asserted that evidence shows human activities, including fossil fuel emissions, are mostly responsible. Extreme weather events are expected to grow in frequency and severity over the coming century "affecting all elements of the nation's complex energy supply system," the report said.
The report's release Friday came in spite of President Donald Trump's expressions of skepticism about the scientific consensus on climate change, and despite the administration's retreat from numerous Obama administration climate change policies.
It did not appear likely to sway Trump's view. On Monday, he called the report "fine," but added, "I don't believe it," and emphasized the importance of emissions in other countries.
"You have to have China and Japan and all of Asia and all of these other countries. Right now we're at the cleanest we've ever been," he said. "It's very important to me. If we're clean and everyone else is dirty, that's not so good."
One section of the report delves into energy sector impacts by region and suggests efforts to meet the challenges currently fall short.
FLOOD, DROUGHT RISKS
Low-lying energy facilities along inland waters or near coasts face elevated risks of flooding, especially in the Northeast and Midwest, the report said.
"The petroleum, natural gas and electrical infrastructure are at increased risk of damage from rising sea levels and hurricanes of greater intensity," it said.
High winds threaten to damage transmission and distribution, cooling towers, and onshore and offshore structures, it said. And extreme rainfall and flash floods can undermine foundations for power lines and pipelines and inundate power plants, substations, transformers and refineries, it said, adding damage to fuel transport infrastructure is possible from river flooding.
In the Southeast, it found a sea-level rise of 3.3 feet could expose dozens of additional plants to risks of a 100-year flood, putting an additional 25 GW at risk.
The Northwest and Southwest face the most severe impacts of changing water availability and drought, posing threats to fuel production.
"During droughts, hydraulic fracturing and fuel refining operations will likely need alternative water supplies (such as brackish groundwater) or to shut down temporarily," potentially increasing refinery costs, the report said.
Hydropower production in the West could be threatened by declining snowpack, changes in timing of snowmelt and other factors, while thermoelectric power plants that use surface water for cooling could also be impacted, it said.
In the Midwest and Great Plains, the report pointed to higher temperatures likely making it harder to grow biofuel crops, and impacting availability of wood and wood waste products for energy.
Looking at market impacts, the report projected rising temperatures will drive up cooling demand while also reducing capacity and increasing disruption of power plants and the grid. Elevated water temperatures also cut power plant efficiency, it said.
"If greenhouse gas emissions continue unabated ... rising temperatures are projected to drive up electricity costs and demand," the report said.
Electricity costs associated with higher temperatures could cost residential and commercial ratepayers up to $30 billion by midcentury, it said, pointing to rising demand, reduced efficiency of power generation and delivery, and requirements for new generating capacity.
Nationwide power demand was projected to increase by 3% to 9% by 2040 under a higher climate change scenario and by 2% to 7% under the lower scenario, the report said. It suggested 25% more power plant capacity could be needed by 2040, in comparison to a scenario without a warming climate.
The report finds it is possible to meet energy sector resilience challenges, and pointed to ongoing efforts through additional planning and analysis to anticipate and respond to impacts, such as hardening measures, like barriers to elevate, encapsulate and waterproof facilities. But it found current efforts are likely insufficient in pace, scale and scope.
Among hurdles it identified are a lack of localized projections of climate impacts to energy assets and a lack of national, regional or local cost-effective risk reduction strategies.
Overall, the report found that without more significant global mitigation, "climate change is projected to impose substantial damages on the US economy, human health and the environment."
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