Although not all agree, there’s some evidence that maximum wind speeds of the strongest hurricanes have increased significantly over the last several decades. But when it comes to tornadoes there is insufficient evidence to conclude that tornado frequency or strength is increasing. Sea levels are increasing at a measured rate of a few millimeters per year.
At least those are the conclusions that I’ve come to after looking at published research.
Regardless of the science, public perception, driven by professional media and thoroughly unprofessional bloggers, is that storms and rising sea levels are an immediate threat. And, of course, we had the enormous damage to east coast utilities caused by super storm Sandy. So now we have increasing governmental and regulatory attention focused on utility security as never before.
As a result, PSE&G is getting started on its “Energy Strong” infrastructure-hardening project at a cost of $1.2 billion. Con Edison will spend a billion or so on storm hardening. You can bet that other utilities will request funding for “storm hardening” based on the conviction that climate change related challenges will increase.
But won’t this really kick up the rates and cause rate payer reaction? Probably not. For example, PSE&G customers will see about four dollars per month bill increase. And if PSE&G does “Energy Strong” right, customers will have a much more resilient grid with modern structural design and smart grid functionality.
And that’s the opportunity - if the industry approaches grid hardening strategically, the increased grid resiliency can protect the system against other threats such as cyber and physical attacks. We have an opportunity, even a mandate to build better systems, and not as just a reaction to the threat of climate change.
What do you think of all this? For each question below, mark the answer that you most agree with.