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October 15, 2021 - By Argonne National Laboratory

New York Power Authority, Argonne Team Up to Ease Climate Risk

Climate change and related extreme weather events are challenging the private and public sectors in unprecedented ways.

Wildfires and hurricanes decimate infrastructure assets and systems. Environmental changes will increasingly affect business models and strategies. For a utility or telecommunications provider, a disruption in service could impact the well-being of customers and communities.

To get a handle on this evolving risk, the New York Power Authority (NYPA), the largest state public power entity in the United States, is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory. Using state-of-the-art climate and infrastructure system modeling techniques and powerful supercomputing resources, Argonne’s interdisciplinary team of scientists and engineers are determining the risks a changing climate poses to NYPA’s infrastructure and capital investment strategy.

Equally important, Argonne’s experts will also develop a climate adaptation and resiliency plan that will inform how NYPA mitigates those risks. “As a public utility that provides almost 25 percent of New York State’s power, it’s crucial that we, with an in-depth understanding of our critical facilities, assets and equipment, make climate-smart decisions about risk mitigations and future capital spending,” said Adrienne Lotto, vice president and chief risk and resilience officer at NYPA. ​ “This study will look at potential climate impacts on our operations and help us strengthen our resilience strategies to stand up to extreme weather.”

NYPA operates 16 power generating facilities and maintains more than 1,400 miles of power lines in New York. More than 80 percent of the electricity produced comes from hydropower, so NYPA is particularly interested in how extreme rainfall, drought, heat and other conditions will impact its hydrogeneration capabilities. Variations in the amount of rain, and when that rain falls, can impact the water flows through its dams, while storms and heavy winds can damage power lines.

Climate change could also affect electricity demand, as customers change their patterns of electricity use for heating and air conditioning due to extreme temperatures. NYPA is investing nearly $1 million in this effort, which is also in collaboration with the Electric Power Research Institute and the Columbia Center on Global Energy Policy.

Over the last two decades, Argonne has led major research efforts and developed tools and methodologies to support local, state and federal partners in enhancing the security and resilience of the nation’s critical infrastructure.

Infrastructure systems like NYPA’s are complex, interconnected, distributed networks that integrate physical and cyber components. Argonne combines science and engineering capabilities, security expertise and decision science to identify security and resilience gaps facing infrastructure systems, and identify actionable risk reduction and resilience enhancement strategies.

“NYPA is taking a leading role in assessing how future climate conditions will impact their systems and operations by developing a climate-risk-informed adaptation and capital expenditure plan,” said Kyle Pfeiffer, director of the National Preparedness Analytics Center at Argonne.

A key tool in Argonne’s infrastructure resilience work is the lab’s hyperlocal climate modeling. While most climate models can only look at changes over a large area – typically 100 square kilometers – Argonne’s approach projects future climate in a very localized area — down to the size of a neighborhood — up to 50 years in the future. “This is one of the first utilities to embark on such an effort using physics-based climate models,” Pfeiffer said.  “Our team will use this type of dynamically downscaled data to model atmospheric physics as opposed to statistical models, which may have greater uncertainty.”

Argonne has recently been involved in similar partnerships with AT&T and Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E). In each case, the modeling and analysis focused on specific factors of interest and value to the company. 

According to Pfeiffer, Argonne is going to be able to give NYPA information that will affect how it thinks about risk management and its infrastructure investment for decades to come. “Building out a long-term plan to prepare for the future will help New York State to reach its aggressive decarbonization goals and increase opportunities to integrate renewable energy. We hope that sharing the results will help other utilities as well,” Lotto said.

Enshrined into law through the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act, New York is on a path to achieving its mandated goal of a zero-emissions electricity sector by 2040, including 70 percent renewable energy generation by 2030, and to reach economy-wide carbon neutrality.

An aspect of climate change that is gaining more attention is the fact that it disproportionately affects minority populations – especially those who work in industries that could be slammed by a hurricane, flooding or other weather events that domino into economic and social disruptions.

Going forward, it’s important that utilities and other planners consider these issues in a more holistic manner. “By studying historical events and forecasting a range of possible climate scenarios, we can develop models to predict which communities may be most impacted by natural disasters,” said Jon Gillis, Energy Policy and Resilience Analyst at Argonne. “Many of these communities do not have the resources to adequately prepare and respond to events like long-term power outages. By identifying these vulnerable communities, we can help decision-makers better direct vital resources before, during, and after an event.”

For more information, contact [email protected].


The U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory is a multidisciplinary science and engineering research center, where talented scientists and engineers work together to answer the biggest questions facing humanity, from how to obtain affordable clean energy to protecting ourselves and our environment. The laboratory works in concert with universities, industry, and other national laboratories on questions and experiments too large for any one institution to do by itself. Through collaborations here and around the world, we strive to discover new ways to develop energy innovations through science, create novel materials molecule-by-molecule, and gain a deeper understanding of our planet, our climate, and the cosmos.


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