The United States must overhaul its antiquated energy infrastructure to take full advantage of the low-carbon transition and hold off a host of risks, from severe weather and rising sea levels to cyber-attacks, the country’s first-ever Quadrennial Energy Review concluded this week.
“The report says our system for getting electricity stands at a ‘strategic inflection point’ and requires ‘significant change’ in order to accommodate more renewables and the growth of distributed energy technologies like rooftop solar,” the Washington Post reports. “And it says much the same for the rest of the U.S.’s sprawling, but often dated, power infrastructure.”
The QER reports that “threats to the grid—ranging from geomagnetic storms that can knock out crucial transformers; to terrorist attacks on transmission lines and substations; to more flooding, faster sea-level rise, and increasingly powerful storms from global climate change—have been growing even as society’s dependence on the grid has increased,” the Post notes. Yet the system has suffered from a “lack of timely investment in refurbishing, replacing, and modernizing components of infrastructure that are simply old or obsolete.”
The report “acknowledges major energy infrastructure challenges, while nonetheless continually returning to the vital need to address climate change,” Mooney writes. “For indeed, the report notes, a changing climate itself poses grid security challenges due to increases in extreme weather (events like the ‘polar vortex’ can lead to large bulges in energy demand), rising seas (which could threaten low-lying power infrastructure), and other forecast changes.”