Hydropower generation is the energy source that is likely to be most directly affected by climate change because it is sensitive to the amount, timing and geographical pattern of precipitation and temperature. Furthermore, hydropower needs may increasingly conflict with other priorities, such as salmon restoration goals in the Pacific Northwest (IPCC, 2007). However, changes in precipitation are difficult to project at the regional scale, which means that climate change will affect hydropower either positively and negatively, depending on the region.
Infrastructure for energy production, transmission and distribution could be affected by climate change. For example, if a warmer climate is characterized by more extreme weather events such as windstorms, ice storms, floods, tornadoes and hail, the transmission systems of electric utilities may experience a higher rate of failure, with attendant costs (IPCC, 2007). Power plant operations can be affected by extreme heat waves. For example, intake water that is normally used to cool power plants become warm enough during extreme heat events that it compromises power plant operations.
Finally, some renewable sources of energy could be affected by climate change, although these changes are very difficult to predict. If climate change leads to increased cloudiness, solar energy production could be reduced. Wind energy production would be reduced if wind speeds increase above or fall below the acceptable operating range of the technology. Changes in growing conditions could affect biomass production, a transportation and power plant fuel source that is starting to receive more attention (IPCC, 2007).