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New Pilot Study on Sea Level Rise Offers Approach That Can Help Communities Assess Possible Impact of Sea Level Rise on Energy Assets

October 10, 2014 - 5:09pm

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As part of our commitment to improve the resilience of our electric grid in the face of extreme weather events, OE has released findings of a pilot study that explores the feasibility of assessing the impacts of sea level rise on energy infrastructure. The goal of our study was to develop a method to identify energy facilities exposed to sea level rise (SLR) through 2100 that is flexible and scalable, uses existing and robust data sources, accounts for global and local sea level changes, and can incorporate results from regional studies.

The study focused on the four major metropolitan statistical areas of New York City, Houston, Miami, and Los Angeles. These areas were chosen because of their proximity to the coast, past exposure to significant storm events, and geographic dispersion along the coastlines likely to be affected by SLR. The approach used in this study can be applied to any coastal region or coastal Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA).

The study uses recent government data and modeling results, including global SLR scenarios from the Third National Climate Assessment (NCA), analyses of the geographic extent of inundation from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and locations of energy assets identified by DOE as part of ongoing studies of energy infrastructure. The data do not indicate whether the energy infrastructure has undertaken mitigation or adaptation efforts to reduce exposure to higher sea levels. Also, the study extends beyond the economic life of most of the energy assets shown to be affected, and it is possible that many of these assets could be retired within the next 25 to 30 years.

We believe this pilot study is a good first-order approach and screening tool that can help communities understand and prepare for the effects of sea level rise on their energy assets. We will continue working with Federal, state, and local partners to share and understand the value of the findings of the study and identify opportunities for future improvement and collaboration. The study is now available for downloading.

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