It is the 73rd day since I started working from home because of COVID-19, and over the past 73 days, I have witnessed our society rush into a new routine at lightning speed.
I have participated in many webinars that discussed how the hydropower industry prepared for and managed this pandemic and was comforted to see that our industry has handled the pandemic very well. We have kept our plants running, our customer’s lights on and our workers safe, but I can’t help but think about what we should do if we face another pandemic in the future. Three words keep circulating in my head – preparedness, vulnerability, and recovery.
In the early stage of the pandemic, many hydro operators activated their Business Continuity Plans (BCPs). Some BCPs had well laid-out details on every aspect of their business operations, while others were more high-level and required managers to develop actionable measures as they encountered new issues along the way.
To a great extent, the quality of a company’s BCP determined how well-prepared it was to respond to this pandemic. Through this experience, some companies recognized that their BCPs were focused only on natural disasters and others realized that their BCPs only addressed emergencies at one or several of their locations but did not prepare for a worldwide emergency.
As we learn valuable lessons from this global pandemic and evaluate ways to improve our BCPs, it is important that we use those lessons to prepare for disasters that could be induced by other on-going global issues such as climate change.
Effectively preparing for climate change requires thinking differently and asking new questions. Should we consider developing “Climate Continuity Plans (CCPs)”? What scenarios should we consider in preparing for a CCP? Can we develop proactive long-term strategies to avoid some of these potential disasters? If we can’t avoid them, where should we focus our resources during a disaster like this?
People typically associate climate change with extreme floods. As a result, flood control may be a top priority for hydro owners in their BCP/CCP development. Though flood control is an important consideration in the hydropower industry, climate change has diverse effects. Therefore, to be well prepared to respond to the wide-reaching impacts of climate change, we first need to gain a better understanding of the implications of climate change in each specific region.
For example, Figure 1 below presents results from a recent RTI climate study on drought in an eastern U.S. region. The study revealed that there is a high probability that the region would face more droughts over the next 50 years. The potential consequences of drought are water scarcity and reduced hydropower production. Taking that into account, the CCP for this region may need to focus on water supply shortage and power outages as opposed to flood control.