US energy industry feeling impact of climate change, report says

A new U.S. Energy Department report highlights the impact of climate change, including prolonged periods of high temperatures and water shortages, on the energy sector.

The report issued this month says thermoelectric power plants are at risk from decreasing water availability and increasing air and water temperatures, which reduce the efficiency of cooling.

It also says energy infrastructure along the coast is at risk from rising sea levels, increasing intensity of storms, and higher storm surge and flooding, potentially disrupting oil and gas production, refining, and distribution, as well as electricity generation and distribution.

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Other risks to the industry from climate change include the impact on fuel transportation and the availability of renewable energy sources, the report says.

“Increasing temperatures, decreasing water availability, more intense storm events, and sea level rise will each independently, and in some cases in combination, affect the ability of the United States to produce and transmit electricity from fossil, nuclear, and existing and emerging renewable energy sources,” the report says. “These changes are also projected to affect the nation’s demand for energy and its ability to access, produce, and distribute oil and natural gas.”

Texas is among the states cited as examples in the report where the impact of climate change has been felt by the energy industry.

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The report notes that in the summer of 2011 consecutive days of triple-digit heat and record drought in Texas resulted in the Electric Reliability Council of Texas declaring power emergencies due to a large number of unplanned power plant outages. Sharp increases in wholesale electricity prices resulted.

A year later, the report noted, amid extreme drought conditions some companies that extract natural gas and oil via hydraulic fracturing faced higher water costs or were denied access to water for six weeks or more in several states, including Texas.

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