Spotlight: Diversifying power utilities to adapt to our changing environment

By: Jamie Carson, Global Adaptation Institute (GAIN)

Anne Hoskins

Anne Hoskins, Senior Vice President, Public Affairs and Sustainability at Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG), and Chair of the New Jersey Adaptation Alliance, has helped develop the Adaptation Alliance, which is making strides in developing adaptation best practices in a state with approximately 130 miles of coastline and an economy heavily dependent on industry and tourism. PSEG is a publicly traded, diversified energy company headquartered in New Jersey, and one of the ten largest electric companies in the U.S. It employs 10,000 people and includes total assets of $29.821 billion.

Utility providers can build resilience and reduce the disruption of services during an extreme weather event through power source diversification by exploring new options such as energy efficient technology and renewable energy. 

During recent months, several communities in the U.S. and around the world have experienced floods, drought, fire and severe thunderstorms with high winds. In some cases, it has resulted in deaths and impacted economies. In the U.S., a super derecho (straight lined and long-lived windstorm associated with severe thunderstorms) spawned and moved from northern Indiana to the southern mid-Atlantic June 29 and killed at least 22 people. That storm also knocked out power during 100 degree temperatures for approximately five million people. 

Derecho Strikes the Eastern United States

A super derecho (straight lined and long-lived windstorm associated with severe thunderstorms) struck the eastern U.S. June 29.

Events such as this that are often unpredictable, but will likely increase in the future and in places that disasters have not occurred before. What can be planned are policies and plans that help businesses and communities adapt to a changing climate, urbanization and population growth. 

New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance

New Jersey is a highly vulnerable region, in part because of its proximity to the coast. That, along with its economic dependence on industry and tourism, will warrant state leaders and businesses to implement innovative and technology-based solutions to build resilience, in part, by diversifying power sources. In the face of extreme weather events, this will help to ensure people have continued access to energy in critical situations. 

To broaden the adaptation discussion across all sectors in New Jersey, PSEG combined efforts with Rutgers University to form the New Jersey Climate Adaptation Alliance that join stakeholders from local government, business, state and county government, nonprofits, public health and insurance companies. For example, the Adaptation Alliance works with local emergency management groups to ensure efficient communications are established prior to weather events and any potential service interruptions.

Rutgers’ academia and students assess data to help determine what factors will affect New Jersey. From the research, the Adaptation Alliance will create adaptation projects in the state that will increase New Jersey’s resilience. By engaging NGOs, environmental and citizen organizations and research universities, everyone can begin talking the same language.

Hoskins appreciates and accepts the challenge from GAIN that the findings of the New Jersey Adaptation Alliance can be applied in other states and believes the Adaptation Alliance is in a good place to be part of that process.

Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG)

PSEG is a major power generator with power plants along the Delaware Bay and other rivers that can prove to be vulnerable areas when heavy rains cause flooding or sea level rise moves into the nearby water systems in New Jersey. We also provide transmission and distribution utility services, which pose a separate set of risks that are more land-use oriented.

To prepare for changes in climate and the demand for energy in our region, PSEG uses a balanced scorecard to internally measure its services. The metrics show how quickly, for example, electric and gas can be restored after an outage. There is potential to use scorecards more broadly to measure progress on adaptation initiatives.

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In closing, adaptation in the private sector, state government and at the level of your local utility company, is an urgent matter. It will require alliances similar to the New Jersey Adaptation Alliance. Taking adaptive measures will not only protect utility customers, but will also guard the futures of local communities and economies. 

Categories: Leaders new jersey energy