Climate Change is Here; It's Time to Adapt
Pedro J. Pizarro, Edison International president and CEO, delivered a blunt, yet hopeful assessment of the climate change-related challenges facing California at the recent Climate Leadership Conference in Washington, D.C.
“It is sobering. Climate change is already baked in and that means in California we're going to see by 2050 a 2.6-foot average sea level rise,” Pizarro said. “If you look at (days in) the top one percentile of extreme heat, we're going to see those seven times more often in 2050. We're going to see both floods and droughts.”
And wildfires. Southern California Edison projects 23% more land will burn during wildfire season, which is becoming longer. SCE is spending about $1.66 billion annually on wildfire mitigation, including installing covered conductor and other grid hardening measures.
The long-term solution for California, Pizarro said, is clean energy and electrification, including a $175 billion investment in renewable energy and storage and another $75 billion for transmission infrastructure, as well as a doubling of energy-efficiency savings.
“And then, you have to take all of that clean electricity and use it to electrify the heck out of the economy,” Pizarro said, adding that he is “highly optimistic that we can accomplish these changes, because frankly we don't have a choice as a society. When folks sometimes talk about it being too expensive to make these investments, I keep coming back to ‘Yes, the cost is high, but the cost of inaction is greater.’”
That is the clear message from Edison International’s recently released white paper, “Adapting for Tomorrow: Powering a Resilient Future.” It details the reasons behind the calls for urgent action, including the fact that last year was the seventh-consecutive year with 10 or more $1 billion climate or weather disasters in the U.S. Even adjusting for inflation, that happened only five times over the previous 35 years.
The white paper is based on SCE’s groundbreaking Climate Adaptation Vulnerability Assessment (CAVA), which examines climate change-related threats to the electric company’s 50,000-square mile service area. Among its chief conclusions are by 2050:
- Wildfires could take out entire transmission corridors, leaving large swaths of customers without power for extended periods.
- Critical substations in flood plains could become inundated due to increased extreme precipitation events.
- Grid capacity could be reduced by up to 20% in some areas because of increased extreme temperatures.
The CAVA is the first of its kind for an investor-owned utility within California. It recommends lengthening planning horizons for energy providers so that near-term investments can address long-term climate risks, as well as increased collaboration among community groups and government at all levels. A key concern: maintaining affordability, especially for customers with financial hardships.
A good start, Pizarro said, would be help from the federal government in the form of tax credits that are part of the stalled Build Back Better Act, which has been approved by the U.S. House of Representatives but not by the Senate.
"It is not about our investors, it's about our customers. The support there flows straight to the customers' bottom line.” Pizarro said. “It’s a way for the federal government to help amortize down the cost of the clean energy transition in the near term."
That would provide long-term benefits for energy consumers throughout California, who will need to rely on unprecedented collaboration among industry, governments and communities to successfully transition to an equitable clean energy future.
For more information: “Adapting for Tomorrow: Powering a Resilient Future.”
To view recent publications about clean energy, including the 2021 Sustainability Report, please visit Clean Energy | Energized by Edison