02/06/12

Energy Efficiency: A Tool for Climate Change Adaptation, an Alliance White Paper

Abstract

Climate change is already making the United States hotter, and much greater temperature increases are expected in the coming decades. Along with increasing temperatures, precipitation patterns are shifting, extreme weather events such as storms and droughts are increasing, and sea levels are rising. These changes in weather patterns affect both energy demand, especially with increased peak electricity use for air conditioning, and energy supply, with reduced reliability and efficiency. Weather changes due to climate change also have closely related effects on water demand and supply.

Energy efficiency is one of the most important tools for avoiding climate change by reducing use of fossil fuels. However, energy efficiency and related demand management measures also can address some of the energy sector’s vulnerabilities to climate change impacts:

  • Deploying energy-efficient technologies in end-use facilities and in power generation, transmission and distribution can help counteract the increased demand on and decreased output of power plants due to higher temperatures;
  • Demand response programs and efficiency programs aimed at peak loads can help counteract the increase in peak demand due to increased use of air conditioning, and address the uncertainties in generation and consumption due to extreme weather, thus helping avoid the need for additional power plants;
  • Builders can “future proof” buildings against predicted changes in weather patterns by ensuring long-lived characteristics such as orientation, insulation and windows are appropriate for expected climate conditions;
  • Cities can reduce ambient temperatures, and make buildings more efficient, with cool or green roofs;
  • Constructing distributed generation, especially efficient combined heat and power (CHP) plants, can provide secure electricity for large energy consumers or microgrids that is less subject to grid outages due to extreme weather; and
  • Water efficiency programs can address climate impacts on water resources and reduce energy use for pumping and treating water.