Climate Change To Cause More Energy Breakdowns: Solar & Energy Security

solar and adobe

I’m wagering that only the most determined readers — those already committed to social justice and the rapid transformation of our energy system — found their way to the other side of my 5,500-word feature for Texas Climate News. For those of you who only pecked at the surface of the national survey of strategies being employed to bring renewable solar power to low-income rooftops, you missed a major point: energy security.

Near the bottom, I wrote:

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which robbed more than 8 million Eastern Seaboard residents of electricity, some for weeks, the American Solar Energy Society dedicated a full day of its April convention to conversations about renewable power and security. After all, energy security involves more than domestically produced oil and natural gas. It can also mean resilient solar resources, distributed evenly throughout a community, to run medical devices, heat or cool homes, and purify drinking water after extreme weather events, which scientists project will be more destructive as climate change progresses.

Today, The New York Times reports on findings of the U.S. Department of Energy that suggest the reality of accelerating climate change means we have many more Sandy-style power outages ahead. Here, as much as anything, is the argument for “hardening” our communities most vulnerable to power loss and weakened by infrastructure neglect.

Writes John Broder:

power linesThe nation’s entire energy system is vulnerable to increasingly severe and costly weather events driven by climate change, according to a report from the Department of Energy to be published on Thursday.

The blackouts and other energy disruptions of Hurricane Sandy were just a foretaste, the report says. Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts.

The effects are already being felt, the report says. Power plants are shutting down or reducing output because of a shortage of cooling water. Barges carrying coal and oil are being delayed by low water levels in major waterways. Floods and storm surges are inundating ports, refineries, pipelines and rail yards. Powerful windstorms and raging wildfires are felling transformers and transmission lines.

“We don’t have a robust energy system, and the costs are significant,” said Jonathan Pershing, the deputy assistant secretary of energy for climate change policy and technology, who oversaw production of the report. “The cost today is measured in the billions. Over the coming decades, it will be in the trillions. You can’t just put your head in the sand anymore.”

Top image courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy.