Scenario Development for the 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review

Assessing Stresses, Opportunities, and Resilience in the Transmission, Storage, and Distribution Systems for Oil and Refined-Oil Products, Electricity, and Natural Gas

by Keith Crane, Debra Knopman, Nicholas E. Burger, Anu Narayanan, James D. Powers, Henry H. Willis


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Research Questions

  1. What types of major shifts in energy demand, supply, or other uncertain factors might be likely to place the greatest stresses on energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D) systems?
  2. How might TS&D systems perform under these high-stress scenarios that have the potential to fundamentally affect or change the U.S. energy system by 2030?
  3. How resilient might these TS&D systems be in the future to short-term shocks and disruptions?

The purpose of this analysis was to help the U.S. Department of Energy's Office of Energy Policy and Systems Analysis assess how energy transmission, storage, and distribution (TS&D) systems might perform under high-stress scenarios in which major shifts in energy demand, supply, or other uncertain factors have the potential to dramatically change the U.S. energy system by 2030. RAND researchers developed an analytical framework and associated metrics for examining vulnerabilities, opportunities, and risks to U.S. TS&D systems through 2030 under a range of uncertainties. They assessed major stresses on and opportunities in three major TS&D systems: oil and refined-oil products, electric power, and natural gas. Separately, they also considered the resilience that these systems have to short-term shocks and disruptions. This analysis was requested to support the 2015 Quadrennial Energy Review (QER). The QER, which, in its first volume, focuses on energy TS&D systems, is a federal government initiative to systematically examine energy system performance and explore options to improve that performance to address 21st-century objectives.

Key Findings

Likely Scenarios Show Relatively Low Stress on Systems for Petroleum and Refined-Oil Products, Although Near-Term Stresses Are Present

  • Recent increases in crude oil output from some formations have put pressure on the U.S. TS&D system for crude oil. Currently, much of this output is being transported by rail, but, if production remains at recent levels or increases, crude-oil pipeline capacity will be expanded to handle more of these flows.
  • Rail is significantly more expensive than pipelines and has more potential for spills in urban areas. Rail lines are stressed under current conditions.

Transmission Capacity for Electric Power Probably Needs to Grow

  • But the projected new capacity needs are lower than recent historical capacity additions.
  • Overall, expected transmission capacity additions that the Regional Energy Deployment System model estimates would not increase electricity prices significantly more than recent historical changes.

Additional Demand for Natural Gas Pipelines Is Modest in All Scenarios Modeled

  • The ability to reverse pipeline flows plays a role in decreasing demand for new pipeline construction as sources of supply and demand shift.
  • In none of the cases would the U.S. pipeline-construction industry appear likely to have difficulty meeting demand for new pipeline.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Petroleum and Refined-Oil Products

  • Chapter Three

    Electric Power

  • Chapter Four

    Natural Gas

  • Chapter Five

    Implications for Energy Investments and Policy

  • Appendix A

    Models Used to Generate Results

  • Appendix B

    Development of the RAND Low Consumption Case for Oil and Refined Products

  • Appendix C

    Model Output for Electricity for 2050

The research reported here was conducted by the Infrastructure Resilience and Environmental Policy Program within RAND Justice, Infrastructure, and Environment

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