Morgan Scott is the director for Climate READi, Sustainability & Ecosystem Stewardship at EPRI, an independent, non-profit energy R&D institute. Morgan leads the institute’s effort to design and develop a comprehensive industry approach to physical climate risk assessment and mitigation. She also leads a research team driving work in Ecosystem Risk and Resiliency; Endangered and Protected Species; and Strategic Sustainability Science.
Morgan is lead author on numerous reports exploring sustainability priority issues, metrics, and disclosure trends, and a co-editor of Sustainable Electricity II: A Conversation on Tradeoffs (2019). Prior to joining EPRI, Morgan worked at Consolidated Edison Company of New York where she held positions in Supply Chain; Customer Experience; Energy Management; and Environment, Health & Safety, where she served as the company’s sustainability manager.
Certrec Sentinel: We are all aware that extreme weather is testing the resilience of the U.S. energy infrastructure. The recent winter storms are no exception. It is obvious that something needs to be done to make the system more resilient, and that is what EPRI is trying to do through the Climate READi initiative.
Please tell us what the Climate READi framework is and what we should expect from it?
Morgan Scott: For years the energy industry has been effective at responding to extreme weather events – working to restore power service to communities as quickly as possible. However, this, is a reactive approach.
As one-in-50 or one-in-100-year extreme weather events increase in frequency, EPRI is actively working with stakeholders to strengthen the energy sector’s collective approach to managing climate risk to the electric grid and generation. In spring 2022, EPRI launched Climate READi (REsilience and ADaptation initiative), convening global thought leaders and industry stakeholders to develop a common framework to address this challenge. The framework can help energy companies comprehensively evaluate the vulnerability of their power systems and prioritize investments to better manage the impacts of extreme weather.
Implementing grid resilience strategies, rather than waiting to react to extreme weather events, can help to avoid or reduce outage duration and overall costs for response, repair, and recovery, a win for both utilities and customers.
The Climate READi public framework produced from this effort will be a first-of-its-kind effort that will embody one of the most comprehensive, integrated approaches to physical climate risk assessment. The framework—broken out into three workstreams—will enable energy companies, regulators, and other stakeholders to use science-informed insights in a more consistent way to better understand, plan for, and disclose future global power system challenges. Each workstream will be worked on simultaneously, scheduled to be completed in 2025.
Certrec Sentinel: There were 14 founding Climate READi members. How did all these corporations decide to get together and do this? Was a procedure followed to choose them?
Morgan Scott: For more than a decade, EPRI has been leading research on resilience. However, the confluence of increased electrification, the increased frequency of extreme weather, and the enhanced capabilities of both global climate models and our ability to understand climate impacts drives the need to evaluate localized physical climate risk. With more companies completing these types of assessments, and stakeholders asking more questions around the physical climate risk to the power system, it became clear that there needed to be a more technically rigorous approach. When we launched in April 2022, the founding energy companies were those who had already stepped up to participate, but we now have 37 members on board and will continue this year to bring new companies from around the world into the effort.
Certrec Sentinel: Can the general public take part in developing the Climate READi framework? If yes, then what could they do to help?
Morgan Scott: Another important aspect of Climate READi is our Affinity, where we engage other stakeholders in the framework development process. The Affinity Group includes representatives from the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, the National Labs, codes and standards bodies, academia, NGOs, consultants, among others with a wide variety of experience and expertise that can provide critical perspectives to the work of Climate READi. We are grateful for their engagement to date and look forward to having others join as our efforts continue throughout the next two years.
Additionally, we are committed to making our Climate READi deliverables available to the public to better inform and advance the overall climate resilience and adaptation conversation.
Certrec Sentinel: These are unprecedented times for global energy supply, especially given that world events have emphasized the need for reliable and affordable energy. And then you have climate change mitigation, which is a formidable concern.
Do you think energy companies have the resilience, speed and the required mindset for climate-change mitigation to provide people with reliable and affordable energy?
Morgan Scott: Absolutely. The power industry has long been committed to the tenets of providing reliable and affordable energy. That doesn’t change simply because the power system also needs to be more resilient. Stakeholders have and always will expect energy companies to respond quickly to repair damage incurred from severe weather events and restore power as soon as possible.
The aim of Climate READi is to help inform decisions around proactive investment in adaptation strategies which may help avoid outages and ultimately reduce costs over time. It is expensive to recover from acute threats that require rapidly deploying large, skilled crews, and replacing severely damaged components. For example, in the wake of Hurricane Irma, Florida utilities filed to recover more than $1 billion.
The Climate READi framework will be a risk-based approach grounded in science that can help power companies and stakeholders not just assess potential climate impacts but prioritize and select resilience investments in consideration of the many factors that must be balanced, including reliability, affordability, safety, decarbonization, and equity.
Certrec Sentinel: Please provide a Pro Tip to readers and aspiring professionals in your field. Anything which they would find useful in their own journeys.
Morgan Scott: The importance of being intentional and selective in making commitments. It’s easy to say yes. But being thoughtful about selecting activities that truly drive value and move the needle on progress is critical to success. We have a huge task ahead of us, building this Climate READi framework, but we’re focused on what needs to be done as we work with stakeholders, and are excited about what’s ahead.
Learn more about Climate READi here: Climate READi (epri.com).