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Adaptation Examples: Energy

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Adaptation Examples in Energy

Key Points
  • Some energy companies in the Gulf Coast are protecting their facilities against sea level rise, more intense storms and higher storm surges. In some cases, they are moving the locations of facilities such as business centers inland to less vulnerable areas.
  • Western states are working with the Department of Energy to assess the impact of water shortages on energy production.
  • Federal, state, and local governments are working to reduce overall energy demands. This serves many purposes, including helping energy producers continue to meet consumer demand as heating and cooling needs change.

Climate change will likely impact the production, demand, and distribution of energy. More intense storms, sea level rise, and larger storm surges may disrupt oil extraction and delivery along the coasts. Heat waves may increase peak demand for electricity, and changes in precipitation patterns may disrupt hydropower. For more information about the climate change impacts on energy, please visit the Energy Impacts section.

Energy producers and distributors, state and local governments, EPA, and the Department of Energy are promoting energy conservation and working to ensure an adequate energy supply. Specific adaptation approaches include:

  • Protecting important energy production infrastructure
  • Relocating critical business facilities
  • Improving assessment of water supplies that can be used to produce energy
  • Planting trees and promoting the use of "cool roofs" to reduce energy demands
  • Creating a Smart Grid to maximize the efficiency of electricity distribution

The following case studies, examples, and related links are illustrative of adaptation measures and not intended to be comprehensive.

Energy companies protect facilities against sea level rise and storm surge in the Gulf Coast

Photograph of an oil platform.

Oil platforms, like this one in the Gulf of Mexico, are sensitive to large storms and sea level rise, which is projected to increase with climate change. Source: NASA (2008)

An important part of the U.S. energy infrastructure is concentrated in the Gulf Coast region, which is at risk from sea level rise, more intense storms, and larger storm surges due to climate change. In the near term, adaptation strategies will likely focus on increasing resistance to impacts—building and maintaining barriers that can protect coastal energy infrastructure. For example, fortifying offshore oil platforms and coastal facilities can make them more resilient to high winds, wave action, and flooding. Longer-term investment strategies for the development of new infrastructure can consider less vulnerable areas when choosing sites.

Entergy Corporation, an energy company, is engaged in a climate risk assessment to understand the potential costs of continuing to operate business-as-usual in the Gulf Coast. Following Hurricane Katrina, the company relocated important business centers inland to areas less likely to be affected by future storms. [1] In 2010, Entergy and the America's Wetlands Foundation commissioned a study, Building a Resilient Energy Gulf Coast (PDF), Exit EPA Disclaimer which quantifies and identifies options for managing risks associated with climate change. Based on the study, Entergy is working to build greater resilience into its assets and operations.

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Western states assess how water shortages will impact energy production

Energy production from most fuels–including coal, natural gas, nuclear, geothermal, hydropower, and biofuel–use water. To learn more about the connection between water and energy production, see the Energy Impacts section. In one example of adaptation in this area, the Department of Energy (DOE) is working with the Western Governors' Association, the Western Electricity Coordinating Council, and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to incorporate the likely water shortages associated with climate change as part of their energy planning efforts. The project will develop a set of regional planning models and data to support energy-water planning efforts. [2]

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Federal, state, and local efforts reduce overall energy demand

Federal, state, and local efforts are underway to improve energy efficiency and energy conservation. Although these efforts may not have been designed with adaptation as their primary goal, reductions in energy demand, especially reduction in electricity demand, can make potential service disruptions less likely or less damaging. These efforts also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change. Below are some examples of energy efficiency and conservation programs:

  • ENERGY STAR® is EPA's voluntary, market-based partnership program that promotes the use of energy efficient products and practices by American consumers, businesses, and organizations. Products in more that 60 different categories, over one million new homes, and tens of thousands facilities proudly carry ENERGY STAR certification.
  • The federal government and utility providers are in the process of upgrading the nation's electricity transmission system to a Smart Grid. A Smart Grid will enable two-way communication between electricity consumers and providers. It will use modern technology to transmit real-time information, allocating electricity where needed and responding rapidly to demand peaks. Additionally, Smart Meters are devices that provide consumers with personalized consumption information so that they can shift their consumption accordingly.
  • EPA's State and Local Climate and Energy Program provides technical assistance, analytical tools, and outreach support to state, local, and tribal governments interested in mitigation and adaptation planning.
  • Cities like New York, NY, Exit EPA Disclaimer Boston, MA (PDF) Exit EPA Disclaimer , and Chicago, IL Exit EPA Disclaimer are planting urban trees to increase shade and promoting the use of highly reflective roofs to reduce energy use from air conditioning. To learn more about reducing energy demands, visit the Northeast Impacts & Adaptation page, the Midwest Impacts & Adaptation page, and the Health Impacts & Adaptation page.
  • EPA's Sustainable Infrastructure Program is working with partners across the water sector to provide the knowledge and tools to ensure that investments made in water infrastructure are more sustainable. Part of becoming sustainable includes ensuring that water sector systems adopt practices and technologies for improving their energy efficiency.

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References

1. Sussman, F.G., and J.R. Freed (2008). Adapting to Climate Change: A Business Approach (PDF). Exit EPA Disclaimer Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

2.Interagency Climate Adaptation Task Force, (2011) Federal Actions for a Climate Resilient Nation: Progress Report of the Interagency Climate Change Adaptation Task Force . Interagency Climate Adaptation Task Force.

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