The Department of Energy last week released a report on U. S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather. John Broder in the New York Times summarizes its findings:
“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.”
Broder goes on to quote Jonathan Pershing, deputy assistant secretary of energy for climate change policy and technology, who was in charge of producing the report: “We don’t have a robust energy system, and the costs are significant. 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.”
Neither the Department of Energy’s report nor any of the news stories I’ve read consider the major reason why the energy sector is becoming less robust and resilient. It’s largely because of all the regulations and mandates that require the energy sector to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in technologies that provide very little energy, which means that there is little capital available to invest in improving and enlarging the energy infrastructure.
In particular, the margin that provides electric reliability in times of stress to the system has been declining because electric utilities have been building lots of windmills and solar panels that provide small amounts of unreliable and expensive electricity while preparing to close conventional coal-fired power plants that produce large amounts of reliable and inexpensive electricity in order to comply with EPA regulations. It’s not climate change, but climate change policies that are harming the energy sector.