Climate Change and the Electricity Sector: DOE Guide for Assessing Vulnerabilities and Developing Resilience Solutions to Sea Level Rise

This report was prepared by the U.S Department of Energy (DOE) to provide guidance for evaluating how sea level rise and storm surge hazards may affect electricity services, and for identifying solutions to enhance resilience to these climate impacts. It includes examples of climate resilience issues and opportunities related to generation, transmission, and distribution assets; and includes generalized methods on how to estimate the costs and benefits of various sea level rise (SLR) resilience measures.   

According to the DOE, much of the energy infrastructure in the U.S. is located near the coasts, where it can be exposed to climate change related hazards such as flooding at high tides, storm surge associated with intense storms, and permanent inundation from SLR. DOE also reminds us that the electric power system is highly interconnected with other sectors - including communications, healthcare facilities, emergency management, and transportation systems - that are also then vulnerable to downstream impacts from this exposure.

An electricity asset owner can assess climate change impacts and resilience challenges from SLR and storm surge hazards by determining: the exposure of assets to these hazards; the vulnerability of electricity assets to storm events; and the economic losses determined by analyzing direct and indirect costs. Section 3 of the report provides guidance regarding the use of climate data on SLR and storm surge to inform the vulnerability assessment process. Section 4 discusses differential vulnerability of asset types, and the potential direct and indirect costs associated with hazard impacts.

Section 5 describes resilience measures including those related to:

  • hardening existing assets;
  • new construction and relocation;
  • policy, planning, and operations;
  • smart grid and microgrid;
  • ecosystem-based measures; and
  • risk transfer to help ensure electricity service.

Resilience measures can provide a variety of benefits, including direct benefits from avoided costs (based on potential cost of impact), as well as co-benefits to the electricity sector such as system reliability benefits, enhanced energy efficiency, reduced GHG emissions, and more.


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Publication Date: July 2016

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment guide
  • Planning guides


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