finding 4.3 : key-message-4-3

Actions are being taken to enhance energy security, reliability, and resilience with respect to the effects of climate change and extreme weather (very high confidence). This progress occurs through improved data collection, modeling, and analysis to support resilience planning; private and public–private partnerships supporting coordinated action; and both development and deployment of new, innovative energy technologies for adapting energy assets to extreme weather hazards. Although barriers exist, opportunities remain to accelerate the pace, scale, and scope of investments in energy systems resilience (very high confidence).



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:

Several entities have identified evidence for the planning and deployment of resilience solutions in the energy sector. Support comes from both industry and federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).f9f08a1a-4e9f-462f-a96e-3342cc6b7813,bfbe6a45-89c6-4f56-b8a9-9a655cb9d91a,30fa21f9-4b83-4af6-bad0-61684ad53f27,7139deaa-2be6-4d5a-a298-a6e4a9f4e30e,a895ce8f-3fd2-43fe-b6dd-1cb666c96c37,1464b93b-c1be-463d-b8f5-218ec6b58df9,22a92508-496c-48f4-80d8-8bddb1500083 For example, the DOE’s recent efforts, reflected in the Quadrennial Energy Reviewdf09ee8d-ac10-4cd4-bcb1-a087c727d891,f0d12f1c-4eea-41ee-a818-58ad09513531 and the Quadrennial Technology Review,d707f6f9-107d-4170-bd0b-c14d7a66b395 examine how to modernize our Nation’s energy system and technologies to promote economic competitiveness, energy security and reliability, and environmental responsibility. Through the Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience, the DOE and partner utilities provide examples of plans and implementation of resilience solutions, as well as barriers to expanded investments in resilience.f9f08a1a-4e9f-462f-a96e-3342cc6b7813,a0278b11-0a3c-4bee-b087-a5072f86d65e This Key Message gains further support from the EPA’s work with industry and local and state governments through its Creating Resilient Water Utilities program,5c78eb9f-8faa-4277-b2b1-021b650a4e9b as well as from the collaboration of the DHS with private sector critical infrastructure owners and operators through its National Infrastructure Protection Plan Security and Resilience Challenge.91541b19-32f2-40d5-8cff-9da746fbab0a In addition, a growing constituency of cities, municipalities, states, and tribal communities are dedicating resources and personnel toward identifying, quantifying, and responding to climate change related risks to energy system reliability and the social services that depend on those systems.f9f08a1a-4e9f-462f-a96e-3342cc6b7813,d75aae80-11ea-49c8-8d65-c3ecb3a58ed8 For example, the Rockefeller Foundation’s 100 Resilient Cities and C40 Cities are both networks of the world’s cities committed to addressing resilience. These coalitions, including multiple U.S. cities, support cities in their efforts to collaborate effectively, share knowledge, and drive meaningful, measurable, and sustainable action on resilience.6e47b20a-8617-4c22-bca1-53c587911b80,aad25ab9-de70-4452-a586-eb714a722ba5

New information and remaining uncertainties:

The most significant uncertainties affecting future investments in climate resilience are related to evaluating the costs, benefits, and performance of resilience investments—and the costs of inaction. To make informed investments, decision-makers need standardized cost–benefit frameworks and methodologies, as well as reliable, high-resolution (temporal and spatial) climate change projections of critical weather and climate parameters.df09ee8d-ac10-4cd4-bcb1-a087c727d891,f0d12f1c-4eea-41ee-a818-58ad09513531,f9f08a1a-4e9f-462f-a96e-3342cc6b7813,a0278b11-0a3c-4bee-b087-a5072f86d65e

The high complexity of the energy system introduces uncertainty in whether particular actions could yield unintended consequences. Using the examples above, energy storage, distributed generation, microgrids, and other technologies and practices can contribute to resilience. However, unless evaluated in a systematic manner, the adoption of technologies and practices will likely lead to unintended consequences, including environmental (such as air quality), economic, and policy impacts.

Significant uncertainty is also found in the future pace of mitigation efforts that will, in turn, influence the need for resilience investments. Some level of climate change will continue, given past and current emissions of heat-trapping greenhouse gases. However, without an effective mitigation strategy, the need for additional adaptation and resilience investments becomes greater. Uncertainty about the rate of stabilizing and reducing greenhouse gas emission levels (mitigation) compounds the challenge of characterizing the magnitude and timing of additional resilience investments.

The pace of development and deployment of resilient cost-effective energy technologies are also uncertain and will likely be critical to implementing resilience strategies at scale. These technologies will likely include improvements in areas such as energy storage, distributed generation, microgrids, and cooling for thermoelectric power plants.df09ee8d-ac10-4cd4-bcb1-a087c727d891,f0d12f1c-4eea-41ee-a818-58ad09513531,f9f08a1a-4e9f-462f-a96e-3342cc6b7813,8c3c0bd1-7344-4c38-af03-a9a9d5c13553,a0278b11-0a3c-4bee-b087-a5072f86d65e

Assessment of confidence based on evidence:

There is very high confidence that many of the technologies and planning or operational measures necessary to respond to climate change exist and that their implementation is in progress.77e1b701-2408-407b-a507-2d47571297e0 Although federal, state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector are already responding, there is very high confidence that the pace, scale, and scope of combined public and private efforts to improve preparedness and resilience of the energy sector are likely to be insufficient, given the nature of the challengedf09ee8d-ac10-4cd4-bcb1-a087c727d891,f0d12f1c-4eea-41ee-a818-58ad09513531,f9f08a1a-4e9f-462f-a96e-3342cc6b7813,77e1b701-2408-407b-a507-2d47571297e0,8c3c0bd1-7344-4c38-af03-a9a9d5c13553 presented by a changing climate and energy sector.

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