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Environment

Energy Infrastructure Needs Upgrades

by Steven K. Gibb
May 4, 2015 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 93, ISSUE 18

Obsolescence of the electric grid and natural gas and oil infrastructure warrants new investment to ensure resilience and reliability, the Energy Department says in its “Quadrennial Energy Review.” According to the report, released last week, about 50% of natural gas pipelines were built between 1950 and 1970, and surges in gas volume necessitate between $2.6 billion and $3.5 billion in new investment by 2030. The report focuses on the role of transport, storage, and distribution infrastructure in a rapidly changing energy landscape. Although much of this infrastructure is privately held, the federal government owns significant portions, including transmission lines and storage facilities, and has a role in regulating what it does not own. Climate-related changes such as sea-level rise, thawing permafrost, and extreme weather are already affecting this infrastructure in many regions, the report adds. In addition, domestic petroleum consumption is flat, coal use is declining, and natural gas and renewables are surging. The U.S. is emerging as the world’s leading producer of oil and natural gas combined, according to the report.

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