finding 4.2 : key-message-4-2

Changes in energy technologies, markets, and policies are affecting the energy system’s vulnerabilities to climate change and extreme weather. Some of these changes increase reliability and resilience, while others create additional vulnerabilities (very likely, very high confidence). Changes include the following: natural gas is increasingly used as fuel for power plants; renewable resources are becoming increasingly cost competitive with an expanding market share; and a resilient energy supply is increasingly important as telecommunications, transportation, and other critical systems are more interconnected than ever.



This finding is from chapter 4 of Impacts, Risks, and Adaptation in the United States: The Fourth National Climate Assessment, Volume II.

Process for developing key messages:

We sought an author team that could bring diverse experience, expertise, and perspectives to the chapter. Some members have participated in past assessment processes. The team’s diversity adequately represents the spectrum of current and projected impacts on the various components that compose the Nation’s complex energy system and its critical role to national security, economic well-being, and quality of life. The author team has demonstrated experience in the following areas:

  • characterizing climate risks to the energy sector—as well as mitigation and resilience opportunities—at national, regional, and state levels;

  • developing climate science tools and information for characterizing energy sector risks;

  • supporting local, state, and federal stakeholders with integrating climate change issues into long-range planning;

  • analyzing technological, economic, and business factors relevant to risk mitigation and resilience; and

  • analyzing energy system sensitivities to drivers such as policy, markets, and physical changes.

In order to develop Key Messages, the author team characterized current trends and projections based on wide-ranging input from federal, state, local, and tribal governments; the private sector, including investor-owned, state, municipal, and cooperative power companies; and state-of-the-art models developed by researchers in consultation with industry and stakeholders. Authors identified recent changes in the energy system (that is, a growing connectivity and electricity dependence that are pervasive throughout society) and focused on how these transitions could affect climate impacts, including whether the changes were likely to exacerbate or reduce vulnerabilities. Using updated assessments of climate forecasts, projections, and predictions, the team identified key vulnerabilities that require near-term attention and highlighted the actions being taken to enhance energy security, reliability, and resilience.

Description of evidence base:

Large-scale changes in the energy sector are primarily evidenced through the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s (EIA) data collection and analysis. EIA collects monthly and annual surveys from every U.S. power plant; findings include the types of fuel each plant uses.60f5e1c1-679e-4df6-a559-72d815c5c728 Several sources support claims that renewable technology deployment is growing while costs are falling: EIA data,60f5e1c1-679e-4df6-a559-72d815c5c728,05537a3e-d372-4493-9246-dc6d3651b639 National Renewable Energy Laboratory research,23cb1c3a-ff1e-4665-b672-f17bcfe65467 and multiple studies.cd167a8b-c577-4d5b-b3d5-c2f7c86b1a3f,5b1b5757-90ef-4934-a8b3-026cbaf418e6,d53bb507-4ad1-482d-8efd-18463c2e7db2,79aca09a-97cb-4e09-8050-4dcbe86057bb,acbc0de7-8655-44d4-be3e-d9f5f559546a The U.S. Department of Energy’s Quadrennial Energy Reviewdf09ee8d-ac10-4cd4-bcb1-a087c727d891,f0d12f1c-4eea-41ee-a818-58ad09513531 and other reviews8c3c0bd1-7344-4c38-af03-a9a9d5c13553 provide analysis that supports the growing integration of energy systems into other sectors of the economy.

New information and remaining uncertainties:

Future changes in the energy system, and the effect on energy system vulnerabilities to extreme weather and climate change, are uncertain and will depend on numerous factors that are difficult to predict, including macroeconomic and population growth; financial, economic, policy, and regulatory changes; and technological progress. Each of these factors can affect the cost of technologies, the growth in energy demand, the rate of deployment of new technologies, and the selection of sites for deployment.

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

The reliable production and delivery of power enables modern electricity-dependent critical infrastructures to support American livelihoods and the national economy. There is very high confidence that a deepening dependence on electric power and increasing interdependencies within the energy system can increase the vulnerabilities and risks associated with extreme weather and climate hazards in some situations (very likely, very high confidence).

There is very high confidence that many trends in the changing energy system are very likely to continue and that changes will have potential effects on reliability and resilience. A primary factor affecting the increased use of natural gas and the deployment of renewable resources is the relative price of these generation sources. Existing proven resources of natural gas are sufficient to supply current demand for several decades.5808b554-dae9-4fb4-b457-96056c35ad7b Renewable technologies are very likely to continue falling in price, as manufacturers continue to improve their processes and take advantage of economies of scale.6b0561f4-931a-4001-862a-36c8650ffff6 The degree of interconnection of critical systems is also very likely to increase. The continued deployment of smart grid devices, microgrids, and energy storage will likely provide multiple reliability and resilience benefits.f0d12f1c-4eea-41ee-a818-58ad09513531

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