In response to the threat of climate change and its potential economic impacts, the New York State Public Service Commision - which is responsible for regulating the state’s utilities - is calling on utility providers in New York to disclose the financial risks they face due to climate change.
In a statement, the commission said it had commenced a proceeding “to consider requiring New York’s large, investor-owned utilities to annually disclose what risks climate change poses to their companies, investors and customers going forward.”
It’s a move that many in the industry believe could blaze a trail to meaningful climate action across the US within the utility sector.
Climate change is posing an increasing risk for utility providers
Extreme weather events as a result of climate change are becoming increasingly common, and utility providers rank high on the list of companies that face significant impacts from these environmental changes.
More frequent and extreme weather, such as floods and hurricanes, are posing a number of risks to utilities. These risks result in lower efficiencies, higher expenses, more power outages and less reliable service to their customers.
These extreme weather risks are more prominent now than ever before. In fact, a report from the United Nations found there has been a “staggering rise” in the number of extreme weather events over the past 20 years, driven largely by rising global temperatures and other climatic changes.
The study found that, from 2000 to 2019, there were 7,348 major natural disasters around the world, killing 1.23 million people and resulting in $2.97 trillion in global economic losses. By comparison, the previous 20-year period (1980-1999) had 4,412 natural disasters - claiming 1.19 million lives and causing $1.63 trillion in economic losses.
To understand the impact that extreme weather conditions have on utility providers, a McKinsey study examined the financial records of ten large power utilities in seven states where hurricanes are common (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas), plus New Jersey, where hurricanes are less common but dense coastal populations mean damage from storms can be particularly costly.
It estimated that a typical utility saw $1.4 billion in storm-damage costs and lost revenues due to outages caused by storms over a 20-year period.
Utility providers can use the customer experience to improve their climate change initiatives
While utility providers need to think about larger investments and mitigation efforts that will reduce their climate change risk - such as strengthening the grid, working with new partners and exploring new technologies - there are some small changes they can make to the customer experience right now that could help slow down climate change risk and improve customer satisfaction at the same time.
Making steps to improve the utility conservation and demand management program, cutting down on energy usage and improving customer satisfaction, can be taken by implementing customer usage and analytics data through a utility customer portal solution.
By providing your utility customers with a seamless way to view their real-time usage, you will be able to empower your customers to make more environmentally-friendly decisions that reduce their carbon footprint.
This helps your customer save money, ensures they reduce their impact on the environment and, in return, results in a range of benefits for your utility business - which you can learn more about at our blog, 4 Ways Utility Providers can Benefit From Providing Usage Data to Customers.
While it’s not a huge step to reducing the overall business risk of climate change, utilities can certainly make small changes that impact their consumers' lives. Perhaps if all utility providers were to do so it would signal a collective effort to start slowing climate change down, and, ultimately, stopping it.
Want to learn more about how you utility can combine the customer experience and climate change initiatives through the use of customer usage and analytics data delivered to your customers through a customer portal? Contact SilverBlaze today.