Preparing For Climate Change
Seattle City Light supports research to better understand the effects of climate change on the long-term business health of the utility and the environmental resources that the utility helps to protect.
In 2015, Seattle City Light developed a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan. The plan assesses the potential impacts of climate change to the utility and identifies actions that can be taken to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience. The plan will be used to guide the implementation of climate change adaptation actions throughout the utility.
The Need to Prepare
Seattle City Light has an active program to reduce the emissions of greenhouses gases that cause climate change and the utility has been carbon neutral since 2005. Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases is critical for reducing the long-term effects of climate change, but the world is now committed to some amount of warming given the greenhouses gases that have already been emitted.
How will climate change affect Seattle City Light?
City Light's hydroelectric dams, which produce low-cost power for our customers, partially depend on mountain snowpack to refill reservoirs in spring. Cold water that melts from the snowpack and glaciers in the spring and summer also provides critical cold water for fish species. Warmer temperatures will cause more winter precipitation to fall as rain rather than snow and snowpack will melt earlier in spring. The loss of mountain snowpack could make it more difficult to refill reservoirs in spring and meet water needs for in stream flows for fish and recreation in late summer and early fall. These changes in snow and stream flow may require City Light to adapt operations of the hydroelectric dams so that the utility can continue to meet the multiple objectives of flood control, fish protection, power generation, and reservoir recreation.
Climate change is also likely to cause more intense rain storms in winter but drier, hotter summers. City Light is looking at how changes in extreme weather and related events such as landslides, wildfires, and floods could affect energy generation, transmission, and distribution facilities. The utility is identifying ways to prepare for these effects in order to maintain the long-term reliability of electricity as the climate changes.
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