Understanding Canadian Electricity Generation and Transmission Sectors’ Action and Awareness on Climate Change and the Need to Adapt

January 13, 2015

The electricity generation and transmission sectors are among the most at risk of being disrupted by climate change. Our recent study, “Understanding Canada Electricity Generation and Transmission Sectors’ Action and Awareness”, reports on the current state of awareness and action on climate change adaptation in these sectors and is based on the results of interviews with companies representing 50% and 71% of the generation and transmission capacity in Canada, respectively.

High-level findings on the state of awareness of climate change adaptation in the sectors include the following:

  • 50% reported that their companies have publicly acknowledged climate change is occurring
  • 25% stated that their companies have publicly acknowledged climate change could impact their business
  • 75% reported a belief that senior management understands the difference between climate change adaptation and climate change mitigation efforts
  • 0% could identify a senior officer within their companies specifically assigned to address the company’s adaptation to climate change/extreme weather
  • 100% could point to extreme weather events that impacted their company’s services in the recent past
  • 75% acknowledged that climate change and/or extreme weather events could impact their operations in the future

High-level findings on the state of current action on climate adaptation within the sector include the following:

  • 58% indicated that their companies have carried out mitigation efforts to date (focused on greenhouse gas emissions)
  • 42% reported their companies had carried out adaptation efforts to date, with the majority of efforts  in the research and capacity-building stage
  • 8% mentioned a specific budget dedicated to adaptation efforts
  • 0% could point to a formalized commitment (e.g. a policy or other mandate approved by its board of directors or senior management) to identify vulnerabilities in company operations that might be affected by climate change or extreme weather
  • 42% reported that their companies had, in some way, integrated climate change adaptation into corporate planning and direction

Recommendations to assist industry and policy decision-makers to move forward on climate adaptation in the electricity generation and transmission sectors include:

1.     Provide educational forums for senior-level management teams and Boards of Directors that enhance understanding of the potential impacts of climate change and the importance of taking action by focusing on (i) the past and future costs of climate change to the Canadian economy; (ii) the effect that proactive adaptation measures will have on companies’ return on investment; and (iii) the ramifications that climate change vulnerabilities in the electricity sector have in other sectors, and vice versa

2.     Dispel myths of high adaptation costs by emphasizing cost effective means of deploying adaptation, such as implementing adaptation practices into new infrastructure design and scheduled retrofits

3.     Gather better climate data and provide detailed, region-specific information regarding climate risks, impacts and projected extremes, as well as clear, industry-wide baselines for levels of acceptable risk

4.     Employ predictive modeling to forecast future extreme weather and risk scenarios

5.     Develop best practices for adaptation efforts which educate utilities on what they must prepare for, refine the distinction between mitigation and adaptation strategies and provide a climate adaptation plan template to guide their efforts

6.     Improve information sharing through communication and linking initiatives such as multi-stakeholder forums, industry or technical associations and standards bodies to facilitate exchange of climate knowledge and adaptation strategies and allow for the pooling of research and planning resources

7.     Prioritize public communication and consumer awareness through public disclosure of climate risks, the benefits of adaptation and the need for climate adaptation-related capital expenditures

8.     Increase political will to take adaptive action and better prepare our electricity system for climate change

Read the full report here.

This report was authored by Laura Zizzo, Travis Allan and Joanna Kyriazis. Additional research and design assistance by Alexandra Kocherga, Jessica Vaianisi, Lucas Ostrowski and Hubie Yu. Our Thanks to Natural Resources Canada for funding support and Dr. Blair Feltmate, Intact Chair, Climate Change Adaptation Project (University of Waterloo), for providing very helpful guidance and input. 

(Previously posted on www.zadllp.com)