As we head into the final month of the year, a look back at 2016 confirms familiar and troubling trends: a warming planet, more extreme weather events and rising sea levels.
Look no further than the Sierra Nevada mountains. The U.S. Forest Service recently estimated that more than 102 million trees have died in California since 2010, many of them in the Sierra, where persistent drought and bark beetles have combined to create hazardous fire conditions that threaten communities as well as infrastructure.
PG&E conducted regular aerial patrols this summer to spot fires before they could spread — just one of the many ways we’re working together to build resilience to a changing climate.
Our broader actions and approach were detailed recently in PG&E’s Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Resilience Strategies report, developed as part of our participation in the U.S. Department of Energy’s Partnership for Energy Sector Climate Resilience.
The report chronicles the progress we’re making to understand climate risks across our Northern and Central California service area. It also features actions we’re taking today to embed climate resilience in our operations and energy infrastructure ― and support the communities we serve.
For example: PG&E has teamed with U.C. Berkeley and the California Department of Water Resources to help address how drought conditions are impacting our hydroelectric operations. We’re installing equipment to better understand soil moisture, precipitation patterns and other factors in the Bucks Lake area, northeast of Oroville. Our goal is to improve how we manage our hydro resources in a changing climate, enabling us to meet energy needs while benefiting downstream communities and wildlife that depend on the water.
We also understand the urgency of taking action locally, which is why we’re offering the Better Together Resilient Communities grant program. Beginning in 2017, the five-year initiative aims to support local planning and preparedness by investing $1 million of shareholder funds — or $200,000 each year — to strengthen the resilience of our cities and counties.
As we do this work, we remain focused on understanding the longer-term impacts of climate change on our business. The report details the progress we’re making on our multiyear initiative to assess risks to our infrastructure from various natural hazards, including flooding, sea level rise, land subsidence and heat storms.
It also explains how we’re working to strengthen our governance, further linking our collective efforts to stay abreast of the science and climate risks, build emergency preparedness and response, and engage with experts and stakeholders in this evolving area.
That will include seeking the perspective of leaders such as Dr. Jonathan Foley, who recently joined our external Sustainability Advisory Council and serves as executive director of the California Academy of Sciences.
The solutions to the resilience challenge will come from working together — with scientists and researchers, customers and communities, agencies and policymakers — to combat climate change and prepare to withstand and rapidly recover from its effects.