California and the Pacific Northwest have had rain and winds that have made national news. Some predicted the equivalent of a Cat 3 hurricane along the Washington coast.
Why should the American Southeast care? Because it is emblematic of weather changes that will hit your neighborhood and wallet, too.
It is not just about weather damage but preventing power grid damage.
Climate change is a long-term shift in regular weather patterns. It is global and local. “Changes observed in Earth’s climate since the early 20th century are primarily driven by human activities, particularly fossil fuel burning, which increases heat-trapping greenhouse gas levels in Earth’s atmosphere, raising Earth’s average surface temperature.” (Source)
The worse the weather, the more prepared our energy system needs to be – the more we need to change our behavior.
Our energy system is exposed already. It is a “range of stressors such as aging and deteriorating infrastructure, land-use changes, and population growth. Extreme weather and climate-related impacts on one system can result in increased risks or failures in other critical systems, including water resources, food production and distribution, energy and transportation, public health, international trade, and national security.” (Source)
U.S. utilities know this. They have been hardening their systems to prevent damage and reduce the number and duration of outages. They have a huge amount of plans to make and implement.
“But state regulators largely have rejected these ideas, citing pressure to keep energy rates affordable,” noted the Washington Post just this Sunday. “Of $15.7 billion in grid improvements under consideration last year, regulators approved only $3.4 billion.” That article reported about North Carolina communities’ need for energy resilience.
That financial challenge comes with a human-nature challenge. “However, many customers are unaware of the extent of the issues and needs. As a result, this lack of understanding creates reluctance on the part of both customers and regulators to accept and approve investments.” (Source)
It is illogical to deny the resources to harden the energy system, and after an emergency ask, “Why wasn’t something done before this happened?”
Investments in a tougher and smarter grid are needed. The evidence builds up about the changes that will challenge our energy system everywhere. Just check the recent weather in the Pacific Northwest.
Feature image is the storm as it hits California. NOAA photo.