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Melissa Allen

Research Staff, Oak Ridge National Lab


PhD work: Climate change research at ORNL with Joshua Fu and Steve Fernandez

Current position: Postdoc at ORNL, Urban Dynamics Institute and Climate Change Science Institute, Computational Science and Engineering Division


Dissertation Title: Impacts of Climate Change on the Evolution of the Electrical Grid

Mentors: Joshua S. Fu

Dissertation Description: Maintaining interdependent infrastructures exposed to a changing climate requires understanding 1) the local impact on power assets; 2) how the infrastructure will evolve as the demand for infrastructure changes location and volume and; 3) what vulnerabilities are introduced by these changing infrastructure topologies. This dissertation attempts to develop a methodology that will a) downscale the climate direct effect on the infrastructure; b) allow population to redistribute in response to increasing extreme events that will increase under climate impacts; and c) project new distributions of electricity demand in the mid-21st century.

The research was structured in three parts. The first used downscaling techniques to scale regional gridded atmospheric processes to measurements of local extreme events. These techniques illustrate the ability to move reasonably from regional to local effects. The second chapter explored how people migrated in response to the extreme events for which climate change will increase the frequency and intensity. The third chapter translated downscaled climate impacts and granular population movements into a national map of electricity demand.

The results of this research illustrates the feasibility of the three part approach to address possible future infrastructure vulnerabilities under varying policy options and technology assumptions. This methodology can be an important tool for increasing the robustness of the nation’s infrastructure.