Climate Change & US Energy Structure

by | Jul 23, 2014

karell, marc, climate change & environmental servicesAccording to a recent GAO report, US energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts, increasing the risk of disruptions of energy critical for your operations, such as:

• Resource extraction/processing infrastructure. Oil and gas platforms, refineries, and processing plants are often located in areas vulnerable to severe weather/sea level rise.

• Fuel transportation/storage infrastructure. Pipelines, railways and storage tanks are susceptible to damage from severe weather, melting permafrost, and increased rain.

• Electricity generation. Power plants are vulnerable to severe weather/water shortages.

• Electricity transmission and distribution. Power lines and substations are susceptible to severe weather and stressed by rising demand for electricity as temperatures rise.

Obviously, these effects could strongly impact your company’s very existence and profitability. What can be done to help reduce climate-related risks and adapt energy systems to climate-related impacts? Options generally fall into two broad categories—hardening and resiliency. Hardening measures involve physical changes that improve the durability of specific pieces of infrastructure, such as elevating and sealing water-sensitive equipment. Resiliency measures allow energy systems to continue operating after an event and to recover more quickly, such as installing back-up generators.

The report states that the most of the changes to adapt to climate change must occur at the local government and private levels, although some federal support can happen. Energy infrastructure adaptation is best accomplished by good planning and design. Some useful approaches by local municipal and private entities include:

  • Design more resilient, lower maintenance roadways, bridges, facilities and roads;
  • Incorporate materials which will perform well in weather extremes;
  • Incorporate better control of precipitation runoff including pavement redesign and strengthening its conveyance system to prevent erosion;
  • Stronger and lower maintenance bridge design, looking to long-term usefulness;
  • Maintain proper wetlands to ensure water uptake during floods/erosion resiliency;
  • Larger capacity pumps/pump stations to mitigate key road flooding;
  • Improve infrastructure to resist more freeze-thaw, deep frosts and droughts; and
  • Encourage residents/businesses/workers to reduce demand on electric grid.

Marc Karell is the owner of Climate Change & Environmental Services. CCES has the experts to help your building, company, or municipality understand potential impacts of extreme weather and help you plan to reduce the risks and increase the speed in which you bounce back from an event. The time to plan and act is now. Contact us today at 914-584-6720 or at


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