From Bea Wray

Hurricane Florence was and continues to be a reminder of the impact weather has on our lives. Reports of power outages and flooding keep coming and many people are still facing devastation. What impact does weather have on electricity rates now and in the future?

CNN argues that climate change is making storms even worse.  The article points to conditions from increased greenhouse gases, warming temperatures creating more rainfall, and rising tides. As we prepare ourselves, communities, and infrastructure to be able to withstand storms better, I wonder, “Are we preparing for the storms of tomorrow?” I wonder what costs will be associated with such investments in for better roads, bridges, power lines, and more.

That said, I also recognize that in many ways we are not heeding warnings and taking extra precautions to avoid clear risks. This New York Times article takes a look back at Hurricane Harvey and the devastating flooding in and around Houston. The article and map explain that thousands of homes that flooded had been built within the reservoirs’ maximum flood pool – the area designed to flood in an extreme storm.

Storms are not the only concern when I think about a changing environment and what that might mean to the cost and reliability of electricity.

Recently, the New York Times offered an interactive tool entitled “How Much Hotter is Your Hometown Than When You Were Born?” Several of my friends posted this article on social media and others started to talk about retirement in Virginia rather than the hot South Carolina coast.

The site shares that when I was born in 1968, Charleston could expect about 55 days each year to be above 90 degrees Fahrenheit. Today, 50 years later, we expect Charleston to have 86 days a year hotter than 90 degrees, a 72% increase. By the time I am 80, they estimate that 111 days annually in Charleston will be over 90 degrees.

Whether I trust this tool and their predictions, it presents some interesting questions. If one-third of my days will be spent in 90 degree heat, what will the annual electricity bill be? Are financial planners taking that into consideration when they run models and calculate their 100% certainty that retirement funds will last a lifetime?

When individuals and companies do their calculations for the ROI for solar panels, are they assuming a steady increase in air conditioning days? Couldn’t adding this information shorten the number of years it will take to get the return on their investment?

I have written a great deal lately on the VC Summer nuclear plant failure and the various amounts SCE&G and Santee Cooper customers will have to continue to pay until the debt is satisfied. What would changing the requirement for cooling living spaces mean when running the financial models? Are the South Carolinians carrying the brunt of this debt in for even more expense than projected if the temperatures stay the same?