Climate change and extreme weather events pose certain risks to the energy industry and infrastructure (Maras, 2014). Vulnerabilities within the largely private energy industry pertain to regional issues: for example, in the Southeast, the energy industry sits mainly in low-lying areas where flooding can occur in the wake of hurricanes or storms. Flooding here can impair oil and gas production during certain parts of the year. In other parts of the year, heat waves there and in other regions of the U.S. can cause increased demand on the electric good and potentially lead to brownouts or blackouts. High winds in the California region have led to the electric companies implementing deliberate blackouts to reduce the risk of fires caused by damaged electric wires (Department of Energy, 2019). In other parts of the country, seasonal droughts and lack of snowfall can lead to declines in hydroelectric output which negatively impacts the electric grid (DOE, 2013). A lack of water availability can also lead to shutdowns at thermoelectric plants, which require high amounts of water for cooling purposes (DOE, 2013).
Several measures can be taken to reduce these vulnerabilities, according to Pershing (2013). These steps include:
Â· Enhancing climate-resilient energy technologies
Â· Fostering enabling policies at all levels
Â· Providing technical information and assistance
Â· Convening and partnering with stakeholders (Pershing, 2013).
By enhancing climate-resilient energy technology, the energy industry can become impervious to fluctuations in weather conditions. Whether high winds or high temperatures, excessive rain or freezing cold, the industry will be prepared; but if technology is not updated and upgraded it is at risk of failure.
Additionally, fostering policies that will enable the updating and upgrading of infrastructure is essential. If the private sector is not forced by governmental policy to upgrade and reinvest in enhancements, it may delay these implementations and further put the industry at risk. The federal government has a responsibility to protect the public by drafting policies that will enforce upgrades.
The industry will also require information on what technology is available and how it can be implemented to protect the sector and reduce vulnerabilities. The government can provide that information by working with leading scientists in the industry. It is overall a collaborative exercise that has to be adopted (DHS, 2016). Planning is already underway to facilitate this process, within the Department of Homeland Security.
As the UN has pointed out as far back as the 1990s, climate change will have a negative impact on the world, and nations should take steps to protect their energy industries and infrastructures. In the U.S., because the energy industry is mainly in the hands of the private sector, the U.S. government must work with private companies to ensure that they are taking the necessary steps, as described above, to prevent infrastructure from breaking down or going offline. Whether it is flooding, storm surges, heat waves, or droughts, the energy industry is likely to be impacted negatively by strong fluctuations in weather. Therefore, the U.S. government needs to implement regulations that will ensure the private sector applies the necessary technological upgrades to enhance its infrastructure and protect it against climate change.
Department of Energy. (2019). U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities and Resilience Solutions Reports. https://www.energy.gov/policy/downloads/climate-change-and-us-energy-sector-regional-vulnerabilities-and-resilience
DHS. (2016). Energy Sector-Specific Plan. https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/nipp-ssp-energy-2015-508.pdf
DOE. (2013). Electric Light & Power. Retrieved from: http://www.elp.com/articles/2013/07/energy-sector-vulnerabilities-assessed-by-doe.html
Maras, M-H. (2014). Transnational Security. Florida: CRC Press.
Pershing, J. (2013). U.S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather. Retrieved from http://annualmeeting.naseo.org/Data/Sites/2/presentations/Pershing-Climate-Vulnerabiities.pdf
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