As the climate crisis intensifies, our national energy security will continue to face risks posed by increasingly disruptive natural disasters. Every year the Department of Energy (DOE) joins other federal agencies in working closely with industry and government partners to prepare for and respond to any hurricanes and natural disasters that may arise.
DOE’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) supports a variety of programs and initiatives that help states prepare for such events. This work plays a critical role in ensuring that communities across the country have the energy infrastructure in place to withstand impacts caused by natural disasters. It also provides ample opportunities to revitalize our economy, reduce carbon emissions, create millions of high-quality jobs, and address historic environmental injustices and inequities.
EERE’s State Energy Program, for example, has provided more than $203 million since 2017 to communities to stand-up projects that strengthen energy-related emergency preparedness and resiliency. The following snapshot represents just some of the disaster preparedness work being done by states and U.S. territories with support from EERE:
- Following the devastation of Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017, the Puerto Rico Energy Bureau used a $240,000 EERE investment to develop a Photovoltaic (PV) Pilot Program to reduce energy consumption in the homes damaged by the hurricane.
- Each of the 20 homes in the pilot program received solar panels that provided about 2.4 kilowatts of solar power, and an accompanying battery system which allows each home to generate its own electricity and store enough backup energy for roughly three days of energy use.
- Puerto Rico also leveraged funds from EERE’s Weatherization Assistance Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to finance the installations, low-cost weatherization, and other cost-effective home repairs.
Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky & Pennsylvania
- The Tennessee State Energy Office used State Energy Program funds to conduct Mission Moon Pie: A Fuel Shortage Exercise and Workshop (named after the state’s famous confection) with Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, and Pennsylvania to prepare for fuel disruption in the region due to extreme weather events and other emergencies.
- The knowledge and tools provided to regional stakeholders and National Guard personnel as a result of the workshop proved critical for recent disasters and emergencies. When the COVID-19 pandemic broke, Tennessee was adequately prepared to navigate supply chain disruptions and an unprecedented fuel surplus.
- When tornadoes hit Nashville in March 2020, the National Guard was better prepared to install temporary power generators in several areas.
- Florida’s SunSmart Emergency Shelter Schools Program equips schools that have been designated as emergency shelters with PV solar energy systems and backup battery storage, while integrating a companion curriculum for students to explore how PV systems work and help address energy challenges associated with climate change. To date, the SunSmart program, funded through the State Energy Program, has installed more than one-megawatt of solar power at 115 schools in 46 Florida counties.
- During Hurricane Irma in 2017, when 32 SunSmart schools lost power, the solar and battery systems provided power while they waited more than 10 hours for the electric power grid to be restored.
- Massachusetts’ Community Clean Energy Resiliency Initiative (CCERI) uses State Energy Program funds for the construction and upgrade of resilience and emergency-preparedness technologies at hospitals and critical government facilities across the state. These upgrades generate millions of dollars in energy cost savings from efficiency improvements and strengthen the emergency capabilities of critical state and municipal facilities.
- CCERI installed a battery storage system in a police station and dispatch center in the town of Sterling. This system allows the facility to function independently from the grid and, in the event of an outage, supply up to 12 days of backup power.