The increasing frequency and severity of extreme weather events and chronic stresses driven by climate change have particular implications for the utility sector. In it’s report, US Regulated Electric Utilities Face Varied Exposure to Climate Hazards, Moody’s Investors Service leverages Four Twenty Seven’s physical climate risk data to explore the exposure of regulated electric utilities to climate hazards, including heat stress, water stress, flooding and hurricanes.
The analysis found that heat stress will likely have the greatest impact on utilities in the Midwest and southern Florida, reducing power grids’ efficiency and increasing expenditures. The Western U.S., specifically the Rocky Mountain states and California, is the region most exposed to long-term water stress. Since many electric utilities depend on water for cooling, water stress is typically credit negative for utilities.
In other areas of the country utilities are exposed to extreme rainfall and flooding, which are responsible for many power outages. However, regulation and flood insurance help to reduce the credit impacts of floods. Along the East Coast and the Gulf of Mexico’s coastal areas, increasingly severe hurricanes and storm surges will threaten key infrastructure assets such as transmissions substations and power plants. While hurricanes can lead to substantial costs and disruptions for utilities, the states in these regions often have credit-supportive regulation, allowing utilities to recoup costs after these events.
Utility companies across the U.S. are exposed to a variety of physical climate risks that threaten to damage or destroy utility infrastructure, increase operating expenses and affect their credit. These risks, however, can be mitigated with resilience investments by utility companies and by regulation and adaptation in jurisdictions in which they operate.
To learn more about Four Twenty Seven’s climate risk data, check out our solutions for investors, banks and corporations or read our report on Assessing Exposure to Climate Risk in U.S. Municipalities.