Climate Change: Energy Infrastructure Risks and Adaptation Efforts (GAO-14-74)

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has examined the vulnerability of the nation's energy infrastructure to climate change impacts. This report describes their findings including: (1) what is known about potential impacts of climate change on U.S. energy infrastructure; (2) measures that can reduce climate-related risks and adapt energy infrastructure to climate change; and (3) the role of the federal government in adapting energy infrastructure and adaptation steps selected federal entities have taken.

GAO reviewed climate change assessments; analyzed relevant studies and agency documents; and interviewed federal agency officials and industry stakeholders, including energy companies at four sites that have implemented adaptive measures. They share a number of measures exist to help reduce climate-related risks and adapt the nation's energy systems to weather and climate-related impacts in this publication.

The report is definitive that adaptation and resiliency practices could reduce the potential for climate change to affect the energy infrastructure in the U.S. Various adaptation measures are discussed, and most options generally fall into two broad categories - hardening and resiliency. The report provides a number of related examples, such as elevating electrical substation control rooms to reduce potential flooding hazards, and creating resiliency in supply chains.

GAO describes that the federal government has a limited role in directly adapting energy infrastructure to the potential impacts of climate change, as energy infrastructure adaptation is primarily accomplished through planning and investment decisions made by private companies that own the infrastructure. But, selected federal entities can play important supporting roles that influence private companies’ investment decisions and are taking steps to begin adaptation efforts within their respective missions.

According to assessments by the National Research Council (NRC) and the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP), U.S. energy infrastructure is increasingly vulnerable to a range of climate change impacts - particularly infrastructure in areas prone to severe weather and water shortages. Climate changes are projected to affect infrastructure throughout all major stages of the energy supply chain, thereby increasing the risk of disruptions.


Publication Date: March 4, 2014

Related Organizations:

  • U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO)


Resource Category:

Resource Types:

  • Assessment


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