• John M Brogan

National Climate Assessment: What it Means for the Midwest

Key Points:

1) Clean energy has an opportunity to open a new sector in the Midwest's energy market, which is currently dominated by outdated coal infrastructure.

2) It is increasingly market-friendly to invest in clean energy to combat public health concerns associated with climate change.



Background

According to the Fourth National Climate Assessment (2018), climate change is posed to continue affecting the US #energysector at increasing rates throughout the country. The highest at-risk infrastructure are low-lying energy facilities located along inland waters. Substantial damage is expected not only to continue, but accelerate in severity.


Chapter 4: Energy Supply, Delivery, and Demand” of the federal report puts protecting existing assets at the highest level of importance. Investments are being made at the local, state and federal level to respond to weather-related damages more effectively and with more precise tools. See examples of structural weak points due to the changing climate:

Extreme weather and climate change can potentially impact all components of the Nation’s energy system, from fuel (petroleum, coal, and natural gas) production and distribution to electricity generation, transmission, and demand. (Source: adapted from DOE 2013)

Concerns in the Midwest

Annual precipitation rates are increasing. Associated flooding in riverside cities and towns cause immediate infrastructural damage and commerce loss. More crucial is the likelihood of pollutants entering rivers, leading to contaminated drinking water. Various contaminants have been associated with illnesses such as asthma and gastrointestinal issues. The Midwest contains vast waterways such as the Great Lakes as well as the Cuyahoga, Ohio and Mississippi Rivers.


Higher temperatures throughout the day in warmer seasons on average can disrupt the integrity of systems operations. It also requires increased energy use with air conditioning and ventilation. Human illness, such as dehydration and heatstroke, are increasing concerns in the healthcare community.



Opportunities for Change in the Midwest

Solar Carport in Dublin, Ohio. Installed by Better Together Solar in 2018 as part of a Smart Parking Lot.

Increased attention to climate-specific health concerns include limiting pollutants in cities. Green energy is therefore a major economic component to not only preventing damage, but providing long-term solutions to increasing health concerns (i.e. less contaminants). Some current solutions include nature-based approaches, such as wetland restoration, and innovations like permeable pavements.


Likewise, solar and wind energy is becoming more consumer-friendly. Though the Midwest is heavily reliant on coal, (in 2015, coal provided 56% of the electricity consumed in the region) climate change is opening the market for renewable, clean energy.


As climate change continues to change how we see ourselves in relation to the environment, and affects our industries and ways of life, it becomes increasingly market-friendly to invest in long-term clean energy solutions. Solar in the Midwest is prime to sweep into a market dominated by the outdated infrastructures of coal.





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