finding 4.5 : future-energy-systems

As new investments in energy technologies occur, future energy systems will differ from today’s in uncertain ways. Depending on the character of changes in the energy mix, climate change will introduce new risks as well as opportunities.

This finding is from chapter 4 of Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment.

Process for developing key messages: The author team met bi-weekly by teleconference during the months of March through July 2012. Early in the development of key messages and a chapter outline, the authors reviewed all of the four dozen relevant technical input reports that were received in response to the Federal Register solicitation for public input. Selected authors participated in a U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) sponsored workshop on Energy Supply and Use, December 29-30, 2011 in Washington, D.C. The workshop was organized specifically to inform a DOE technical input report and this National Climate Assessment and to engage stakeholders in this process. The authors selected key messages based on the risk and likelihood of impacts, associated consequences, and available evidence. Relevance to decision support within the energy sector was also an important criterion. The U.S. maintains extensive data on energy supply and use. The Energy Information Administration (EIA) of the U.S. Department of Energy is a primary organization in this activity, and data with quality control, quality assurance, and expert review are available through EIA Web pages (for example, EIA 2012, EIA 20132af3709d-81eb-48b7-9183-afc6c27015ea 9f0adb9b-5a9c-4fc2-8df7-ebed4322e185).

Description of evidence base: A number of studies describe U.S. energy system configurations in terms of supply and use assuming different scenarios of climate change, including SRES B1 and A2.4b3a36af-895d-4151-9fbc-206d991558cb 6ac1aea5-6b76-46e1-822e-664cb3d11e9a 2e002d5f-fcf1-4d2e-a8b9-7f672a26e5a1 A technical input report to the NCA by DOEf0803451-5a89-474a-974f-99c13fdc725d 3c34748e-be5d-4831-896e-70cbae0f0d22 provides details and updates earlier studies. The potential role of biofuels is described within Chapters 6 and 7 of this report (Ch. 6: Agriculture; Ch. 7: Forests).

New information and remaining uncertainties: Understanding of options for future energy supply and use within the U.S. improves, as the EIA and other organizations update data and information about U.S. energy systems as well as projections of the mix of primary energy under various assumptions about demographic, economic, and other factors. With additional data and better models, alternative energy mixes can be explored with respect to climate change adaptation and mitigation. But numerous factors that are very difficult to predict – financial, economic, regulatory, technological – affect the deployment of actual facilities and infrastructure.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence: High. Given the evidence about climate change impacts and remaining uncertainties associated with the future configuration of energy systems and infrastructure, there is high confidence that U.S. energy systems will evolve in ways that affect risk with respect to climate change and options for adaptation or mitigation.

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